Pink the Pelican Released after Savage Animal Cruelty Attack
Posted by Shelley Rizzotti, Vice Chair, ALDF-LA on June 4, 2014
As an attorney dedicated to winning justice for animals, yesterday was a truly special day for me. I had the pleasure of watching the release of the California Brown Pelican named “Pink,” who was returned to the wild after a month and a half recovery from a savage attack. In the April 2014 attack, a perpetrator—who is still at large—butchered Pink’s entire throat pouch and left him to die. The International Bird Rescue—a San Pedro, Calif. based nonprofit—has been caring for Pink and rehabilitating him since the attack, and we are thrilled at his recovery and release.
In a surgical room packed with reporters at International Bird Rescue yesterday, Pink received his final pre-release medical clearance. His pink hospital band (hence his nickname, “Pink”) was removed and replaced with a blue identifier: “V70.” He was then placed in a crate and transported a few miles to Royal Palms Beach Park, where even more press awaited to see him released. As a Los Angeles Council Member was addressing the press, a little girl, walking through the park with her parents, approached the crate, oblivious to the cameras, microphones, film equipment and the 50 or more people surrounding the crate. She interrupted the Councilmember and told him she wanted to give the bird some bread. Her little voice silenced the crowd of hundreds, and her concern for the bird in the crate spoke to us all.
Pink’s story isn’t just about a miraculous recovery and release. The heart of his story is really the torture of a defenseless animal. The photos of Pink’s weak and helpless state, with his throat slashed, incited people to action and drew huge media attention. As a result, International Bird Rescue says that reporting of bird injuries along the coast have drastically increased because of Pink’s story—meaning that countless other birds are also now getting a second chance at flying free.
This story reminds us that animal abuse everywhere needs to be reported and prosecuted. That is why the Animal Legal Defense Fund and International Bird Rescue, along with several concerned anonymous citizens, are offering a total $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person (s) responsible for this attack—which could mean felony penalties and prison time. In addition, the Port of Long Beach has put up $5,000 toward Pink’s surgical and rehabilitative care. California Brown Pelicans like Pink are threatened species protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 and under California’s Penal Code, which prohibits maliciously and intentionally maiming, mutilating, torturing, or wounding a living animal. Although we are delighted by Pink’s recovery and release into the wild, his story demonstrates just how much animals need protection under the law.
Anyone with information that might lead to the arrest and conviction of the person (s) responsible for the mutilation of this bird should contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at 310-328-1516.
Summer Reading for Animal Advocates
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on June 4, 2014
ALDF wants to hear from you! This week, we are inviting readers to write in and share their favorite animal protection-themed books. The best suggestions will be included in our post next week at aldf.org! Help us put together the best summer reading list on animal protection as you get ready for summer and catching up on those books you’ve been meaning to read!
New Books Coming Up in the Animal Book Club
- War of the Whales, by Joshua Horwitz – This month’s Animal Book Club featured book: look for our review and author interview in June—the book comes out in early July! (Simon & Schuster).
- All Creatures Great and Small – The Warm and Joyful Memoirs of the World’s Most Beloved Animal Doctor, by James Herriot, a re-release (St. Martin’s Press, May 2014).
- The World According to Bob – The Further Adventures of One Man and His Streetwise Cat, by James Bowen. Cat lovers will get a kick out of this book (Thomas Dunne Books, 2013).
- Animal Madness – How Anxious Dogs, Compulsive Parrots, and Elephants in Recovery Help Us Understand Ourselves,by Laurel Braitman (Simon & Schuster, June 2014).
- Last Chain on Billie – How One Extraordinary Elephant Escaped the Big Top, by Carol Bradley (St. Martin’s Press, 2014).
- Touching the Wild – Living with the Mule Deer of Deadman Gulch, by Joe Hutto; the book that inspired the stunning PBS show (Skyhorse Publishing, 2014).
- Growl – Life Lessons, Hard Truths, and Bold Strategies from an Animal Advocate, by Kim Stallwood.
Recently in the Animal Book Club
- Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and Dogs by David Grimm.
- The Meat Racket – The Secret Takeover of America’s Food Businessby Christopher Leonard.
- The Chain by Robin Lamont.
- The Lost Whale by Michael Parfit and Suzanne Chisholm.
- Bleating Hearts – the Hidden World of Animal Suffering by Mark Hawthorne.
Each of these books raises important issues that the Animal Legal Defense Fund is working on to help protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. These issues include:
- Factory Farming
- Ag Gag Legislation
- Orca Captivity and Display
- The Legal Status of Companion Animals
- Animals Exploited in Sports
What is the best animal book you’ve read recently? Do you have a favorite quote? Let us know!
Love animals? Volunteer at a Sanctuary!
Posted by Kelly Levenda, Animal Law Program Fellow and Nicole Pallotta, Ph.D., Student Programs Coordinator on June 3, 2014
Do you like spending time with rescued animals? Volunteer at a farmed animal sanctuary! This is a great group project for SALDF chapters. We visited Wildwood Farm Sanctuary in Newberg, Oregon. Their mission is to provide shelter and rehabilitation for abused and abandoned farmed animals, and inspire change in the way society views and treats them by promoting a compassionate and cruelty free lifestyle. At Wildwood we met ducks, rabbits, peacocks and pea hens, turkeys, chickens, alpacas, goats, and calves.
Rowdy, the male peacock, was abandoned and found wandering the streets of Portland. As male peacocks can be very vocal, many neighbors found him bothersome and disruptive. Now at Wildwood he is free to vocalize as loud and as much as he wants!
Wildwood took in 40 hens from the largest California farmed animal rescue. The Turlock, California, based company A&L Poultry abandoned 50,000 hens without food and left them to die. Animal Place, Farm Sanctuary, and Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary were able to rescue the surviving 5,000 hens. ALDF and Schiff Hardin have sued the owners of the egg farm to hold them responsible for their heinous cruelty. The hens now have a second chance at life, being able to express natural chicken behavior such as dust bathing, wandering, catching bugs in the tall grass, and building nests. They still bear the scars of being debeaked at just a few days of age, although that doesn’t stop them from enjoying life.
Spencer the turkey was being raised to be killed for Thanksgiving dinner, but his owner had a change of heart and Wildwood took him in. Now, he is free to wander the barnyard where he loves to show off his beautiful plumage for the (human) ladies.
The alpacas, Jax and Brownie, were rescued by authorities when the farm where they lived was investigated for animal cruelty. When they arrived at Wildwood, they were thirty pounds underweight, had overgrown hooves and teeth, and were terrified of people. They are slowly recovering from their neglect.
The calves, Ferd, Blitzen, and Valentino, were rescued from a dairy farm the day they were born. After being taken away from their mothers shortly after their birth, they were scheduled to be picked up by a veal farmer. With permission from the dairy owner, Wildwood took the three calves and drove them to their new home in the backseat of a pickup truck!
At ALDF we sometimes say “we may be the only lawyers on earth whose clients are all innocent.” The precious few farmed animals who find their way to safety and sanctuary, along with their brethren who are exploited and slaughtered by the millions each year, are innocent, and no less deserving of love and protection than those animals we define as “pets.” Currently farmed animals receive only miniscule protections by our legal system today. Sanctuaries for farmed animals are sites of cultural resistance that challenge the dominant narrative, forged through years of powerful socialization, that tells us it is normal to love cats, but not pigs, and protect dogs, but not cows. As long as the law so clearly fails to protect farmed animals, the easiest way to know you are not contributing to their abuse is by refusing to economically support the animal agriculture industry and adopting a plant-based diet.
To find an animal sanctuary near you, type “farm animal sanctuary” into Google, followed by your state, or other location.
The Ultimate Betrayal: Is There Happy Meat?
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on May 29, 2014
This week, the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Animal Book Club is considering the question of “happy meat” or humane farming. Can the concept of humane slaughter be implemented realistically, or does the label merely make us feel better about the consumption of sentient beings? What does the law say, and how do animal protection laws, food safety laws, and trends in consumption reflect the contradictions in these concepts? These are issues considered in a recent book by Hope and Cogen Bohanec called The Ultimate Betrayal: Is There Happy Meat?
As consumers grow more conscious of the animal cruelty and the environmental degradation caused by industrial agriculture—known as factory farming—they pay more attention to labeling. For example, the Animal Legal Defense Fund has petitioned the USDA to regulate labels on meat and poultry containing antibiotics. That legal petition is bolstered by a petition signed by more than 100,000 people and counting, asking the USDA to require labels on meat derived from animals given antibiotics. Most antibiotics sold in this country are fed to farmed animals (rather than humans) who are not even sick. Antibiotics are given to animals preventatively—prior to the outbreak of illnesses derived from living in unimaginably close quarters on factory farms. This overuse of antibiotics is helping to breed resistance in bacteria, or “superbugs,” who are immune to antibiotics. This is potentially the number one health threat in the U.S. And consumers who want to avoid meat produced with antibiotics have no reliable way to identify such products without proper labels.
Conscious consumers often turn to alternatives like small and/or local farms, yet remain vulnerable to vague and loosely regulated labels like “organic” and “cage-free,” even though state law and regulatory agencies do not define these terms (or enforce the laws) very clearly. As the authors of The Ultimate Betrayal write, cage-free can mean “a large, windowless warehouse where tens of thousands of birds are confined inside on the floor… with just about one square foot of floor space per bird….” Furthermore, many cage-free warehouses are on the same factory farms as the controversial battery-cage operations. Truth-in-advertising is critical in order to ensure consumers are not deceived, and ALDF recently settled a lawsuit on this very issue with a Bay Area egg producer. We resolved a similar issue with the largest producer of force-fed “foie gras” (the diseased livers of young ducks and geese) in the nation, when they marketed themselves as “humane” producers.
Consumers do care about these issues. Californians passed “Prop 2,” which banned (as other states have) the use of “gestation crates” that prevent pregnant pigs from standing, turning around, or moving comfortably. Studies have shown that consumers are willing to pay a premium for animal products they perceive to have been produced “humanely.” Yet with anti-cruelty laws that are hard to enforce, and conditions at factory farms or even small farms that are difficult for the severely understaffed federal agencies like the USDA and FDA to regulate, how do we determine what is “humane” about consuming animal products? From warehouses and sheds to the hooks at the slaughterhouse, from environmental concerns to animal cruelty… just how humane can animal agriculture be? The authors conclude their study by writing “we are now convinced that the state of alternative agriculture is actually worse than we thought when we started this project. We found time and again that the conditions for the animals are only marginally improved by alternative farming methods and inherent cruelties abound.” For more information about alternative practices and the problem with “humane” meat, read The Ultimate Betrayal.
Authors Hope and Cogen Bohanec, two local activists residing in ALDF’s own backyard of Sonoma County, California, have long dedicated their lives to animal advocacy and environmental protection. Hope Bohanec is Projects Manager for United Poultry Concerns. The Ultimate Betrayal is now available in soft cover and e-book on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Legally Brief: ALDF’s Case to Free Tony the Tiger
Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on May 22, 2014
Our campaign to free Tony the Tiger continues. What would it mean to “free” a 14 year-old Siberian-Bengal Tiger named Tony who has spent all his life in a small cage at a Louisiana truck stop? Freeing Tony would mean sending him to a reputable sanctuary, where he can finally have some peace in his lifetime and live like a tiger—rather than as a truck stop gimmick in a concrete prison pacing back and forth continuously, surrounded by noise and diesel truck exhaust. The Animal Legal Defense Fund has spent years in court fighting for Tony’s freedom. And we won—our victory was upheld by the Louisiana Court of Appeal, and the Louisiana State Supreme Court refused to revisit that decision. But Tony’s owner, having lost repeatedly in court, while continuing to display Tony illegally, has tried to sneak a bill, “SB 250,” through the Louisiana legislature that would allow him to skirt the law.
That’s why the Animal Legal Defense Fund works to protect animals by covering all the bases within the legal system. We work with legislatures to ensure laws reflect what’s best for animals. We work with law enforcement to ensure that these laws are actually enforced. And—in addition to our highly successful animal law education initiatives, with hundreds of student ALDF chapters in the top law schools in the land—when individuals violate the law, like Tony’s owner, we file suit and take them to court.
The Louisiana legislature is now considering “SB 250,” which, if passed, could essentially undo every victory ALDF has achieved for Tony and relegate him to a life living in a truck stop parking lot. The bill aims to “exempt certain persons from the requirements of the big exotic cats rules.” Exempting “certain persons” (meaning Tony’s owner) would not only remove Tony’s legal protections, but it would allow an individual like Tony’s owner to undermine the judicial process. Aside from keeping Tony imprisoned, passing such a bill would send the dangerous message that if you don’t like a law, you can just hire some lobbyists to try to rewrite it—in this case Louisiana’s ban on private ownership of tigers and other exotic cats. As that law’s sponsor, representative Warren Triche, notes, it was written specifically to prevent tragic situations like Tony’s. For this tiger, and for all animals, we must make it clear that playing fast and loose with the law is unacceptable, no matter how deep your pockets or how tight your political connections.
This frustrating saga shows how hard it is for animal advocates to protect animals. But long as we work together to unite all aspects of the legal system, from criminal justice to innovative litigation and legislative affairs, we will win the case against animal cruelty. It’s important that everyone stands up for animals and does their part.
Here at the Animal Legal Defense Fund, we have a strong connection to Tony’s plight, and our hearts break at the possibility that he may never get his freedom. And if this kind of sneaky, back-door affront to our legal system is allowed to continue, many other tigers may face the same fate.
Improving Conditions for Captive Primates
Posted by Liz Hallinan, ALDF Litigation Fellow on May 20, 2014
Last week, ALDF joined a coalition of animal welfare organizations petitioning the USDA to improve the conditions for primates in laboratories across the country. Years of creative research and hundreds of studies have documented the complex mental abilities of primates. We know that most primates—like monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees—are highly social and use sophisticated reasoning to understand tools, numbers, and other individuals. Yet these intelligent creatures are often subjected to horribly substandard conditions in research laboratories where they are housed alone in barren cages, without access to the outdoors or even to natural materials.
The federal Animal Welfare Act sets the minimum standards for animals in research laboratories. This law requires the USDA to establish rules governing the treatment and housing of many research animals (excluding rats, mice, and birds). In 1985, Congress amended the Animal Welfare Act to include the requirement that research facilities provide space and conditions that promote the psychological health and well-being of primates. In response, the USDA passed a regulation stating that laboratories must “develop, document, and follow an appropriate plan for environment enhancement adequate to promote the psychological well-being of nonhuman primates.”
What does this mean for apes and monkeys? This vague regulation allows research laboratories to determine their own minimum standard for primate welfare. Not surprisingly, as a result, many laboratories ignore the severe suffering of isolated primates, and USDA inspectors cannot adequately enforce the promotion of psychological well-being for these animals. There is a better way to make sure primates receive proper care under the law.
Instead of these vague regulations, ALDF’s petition requests that the USDA adopt the strict guidelines that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) developed for chimpanzee care in 2013. These guidelines recognize the intelligence and sensitivity of chimpanzees and their need for social and environmental stimulation. These guidelines also require that chimpanzees be housed in sufficiently large social groups, have year-round access to the outdoors, be fed a varied diet, and that they have access to natural materials and bedding. The petition requests that, at a minimum, the USDA adopt these clear standards for chimpanzees—and adopt similar standards for all other primate species used in research.
For almost 30 years, Congress has recognized that primates possess highly developed cognitive abilities and therefore require significant psychological care. It is about time the USDA passes regulations reflecting this knowledge.
Mother’s Day Spotlight: Betty and Peanut
Posted by Megan Backus, ALDF Media Relations Associate on May 11, 2014
In 2010, while volunteering for a local dog rescue, I met Betty and Peanut. The timid Chihuahua pair were mother and daughter and had been rescued from a Northern California puppy mill.
For me, it was love at first sight with the adorable duo, so naturally when their foster family could no longer keep them, I offered to take them in. As the months went by we become closely attached, and I realized there was no way I could let them go. I made the decision to adopt them, and it’s been a heartwarming journey ever since. During the past few years they have truly come out of their shells and learned how to accept kindness. The girls love visiting with new people, playing with toys, going on walks and snuggle time. I’m deeply grateful that I was able to keep this deeply bonded mother and daughter together, especially after the neglect and poor conditions they endured for the first years of their lives.
However, not all dogs are given such happy endings. Thousands of dogs are suffering immensely in “puppy mills”—large-scale, unethical commercial dog-breeding facilities—so they can be sold to unsuspecting consumers. Dogs produced in puppy mills not only endure terrible conditions before purchase, but are prone to contagious disease, heart and hip problems, and serious breathing difficulties.
Please take action now and tell the USDA to shut down law-breaking puppy mills!
A United Front against Ag Gag
Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on May 8, 2014
What issue holds the power to unite a coalition as broad ranging as animal protection organizations, labor unions, civil rights groups, journalists, and environmental watchdogs? The legal work the Animal Legal Defense Fund does on behalf of animals brings together those who stand up to injustice anywhere—and so-called “ag gag” laws are truly an affront to justice everywhere.
In the last two weeks, the AFL-CIO, the Government Accountability Project, and many journalist organizations—including National Public Radio—led by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, submitted legal briefs in support of ALDF’s lawsuit against the state of Idaho for its controversial and unconstitutional ag gag law (and its recent attempt to have our lawsuit thrown out of court). In the lawsuit itself, ALDF is joined by the ACLU, Center for Food Safety, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in challenging the state’s attempt to criminalize whistle-blowers who might expose cruel, unsafe, or illegal activities on factory farms.
ALDF, PETA, the ACLU, and Center for Food Safety, are also representing Farm Sanctuary, Farm Forward, Idaho Concerned Area Residents for the Environment, the Idaho Hispanic Caucus Institute for Research and Education, River’s Wish Sanctuary, Sandpoint Vegetarians, Western Watersheds Project, journalist Will Potter, undercover investigations consultant Daniel Hauff, investigator Monte Hickman, professor James McWilliams, investigative journalist Blair Koch, and the political journal CounterPunch. ALDF’s similar lawsuit against the state of Utah for its unconstitutional ag gag statute has also received immense support from constitutional law experts and the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.
To put it plainly, lobbyists for industrial agriculture, like the Idaho Dairymen’s Association, are attempting to write their own laws—laws that sacrifice our constitutional rights to pad their profits. But the tide is turning and most recent ag gag bills have failed. Why? Because people are uniting against corporate ag’s attempt to “gag” whistle-blowers who expose the truth. And this type of coalition and bridge-building is exactly what will help us protect animals, people, and our planet.
Factory farming is not only the largest contributor to animal cruelty—with billions of animals brutalized each year—but is one of the top contributors to climate change and presents ongoing violations of environmental laws and worker safety laws, health hazards, food safety recalls, and challenges to our rights to freedom of press.
For this reason, animal organizations like ALDF are working with environmentalists, journalists, law enforcement, civil rights advocates, and labor unionists. And the Animal Legal Defense is one of the forefront national nonprofits pulling together these groups by taking on the serious problems raised by industrial agriculture. “With much of the conversation rightly focused on animal welfare, we want Idahoans and the court to also understand that this law has the potential to imperil workers, and infringes on workers’ rights to a safe workplace,” said Rian Van Leuven, President of the Idaho State AFL-CIO. “If a worker wanted to demonstrate that worker safety was being jeopardized by unsafe conditions—such as an unventilated manure pit, broken equipment, or an electrocution hazard—and they took a photo of such conditions, they’d be subject to criminal penalties. That runs against everything we stand for.”
In so many ways, factory farming runs against everything most of us stand for.
Reporting from the 4th National Animal Cruelty Prosecution Conference of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys
Posted by Lora Dunn, Staff Attorney on May 5, 2014
The 4th National Animal Cruelty Prosecution Conference has officially come to a close! What an incredible three days learning from the best of the best in law enforcement, prosecution, and veterinary medicine on how to get the best possible outcomes in animal cruelty cases—from crime scene to courtroom. We heard exciting news about a new campaign to spot and prevent animal abuse, Atlanta’s new requirement that police officers receive training in animal cruelty laws, and an FBI proposal to track animal crimes nationwide.
The Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (APA) honored ALDF’s Scott Heiser, Virginia Assistant Attorney General Michelle Welch, and Los Angeles Supervising City Attorney Donald Cocek for their incredible advancements in the field. On the last day attendees put their new knowledge to work in breakout sessions on investigator testimony, veterinarian and other expert witnesses, and jury selection. Participants can now take this new knowledge home to their departments and communities—and work toward a better place for animals.
ALDF was honored to sponsor this event this year, hosted by the Georgia Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council. Animal cruelty experts from around the country convened in Atlanta, GA to share their expertise on ensuring justice for victim animals in the criminal system—from prosecutors and law enforcement to veterinarians and forensic evidence professionals.
Speakers included APA President David LaBahn, John Thompson of the National Sheriff’s Association, Dr. Maya Gupta, PhD on the Link between animal and human crimes, Madeline Bernstein of spcaLA on hoarding and puppy mills, and Dr. Melinda Merck, DVM on veterinary forensics. We also heard from ALDF’s own Scott Heiser and Diane Balkin of the Criminal Justice Program, Chris Green of our Legislative Affairs Program, and speakers from HSUS, ASPCA, and AWI! Looking forward to next year!
Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and Dogs
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on May 2, 2014
This week, ALDF’s Animal Book Club reads David Grimm’s new book Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and Dogs. David’s book is a consideration of the legal implications of the changing place of animals in society. “The public isn’t aware of the legal status of animals,” David says. “There is really no other book for a broad audience that brings this awareness like Citizen Canine.”
A science buff and animal lover, David considered becoming a veterinarian but instead completed a doctoral degree in genetics. Yet he also pursued a career in journalism and has been the online news editor of Science for ten years. In Citizen Canine, he dedicates an important section to the Animal Legal Defense Fund and its formative role in the animal protection movement. The groundbreaking efforts of ALDF founder Joyce Tischler, as well as a number of influential and passionate staff, feature in the book. As David points out, “the animal law movement continues to grow.”
As a journalist, David says he works hard not to advance a particular viewpoint, and in his research he spoke to people from all sides of the aisle. For example, the American Veterinary Medical Association has opposed personhood rights for companion animals. “Vets are in a tricky situation,” David explains. Veterinarians benefit from the fact that people are willing to spend whatever it takes on the health of their companion animals. “It’s what allows the profession to exist, this relationship people have with animals,” he says. “But that stops in the courtroom.” Veterinarians argue that malpractice suits would be costly if animals were valued beyond the price of their purchase.
For example, in 2013 Citizen Canine explains, the Texas Supreme Court decided a case “involving the accidental euthanasia of a dog at an animal control facility.” Even though “the owners weren’t asking for anything close to personhood; they just wanted to recover damages for the sentimental value of their dog… But even that was a bridge too far for the AVMA, whose amicus heavily influenced the judges to deny the claim. As the law now stands in Texas, you can recover more money if someone destroys a picture of your dog than if they destroy the dog itself.”
A fundamental problem for companion animals is that they are considered property under the law, but this wasn’t always the case. “A hundred years ago cats and dogs were not property,” David says. “Only economically viable animals like farmed animals were considered property.” And yet, he says, the way the law treats animals—both now and then—is out of step with reality. “Only 1% of pet owners consider their pets to be property.” In reality, our love of cats and dogs blurs the boundary between companion and property. David explains that cases involving animal custody, emotional distress, and felony anti-cruelty laws mean considering what is in the best interest of animals.
Companion animals also “keep us anchored to the real world.” It’s only in the last decades that companion animals have become like family members, David writes in Citizen Canine. Technological developments have changed our lives and our relationships. But with animal companions, “we have to engage. They are a living breathing loving presence in our lives. Companion animals bring us back down to earth in the physical world.” And that is why, David agrees, the work ALDF does is so important—to make sure these companions are provided the legal protections they deserve.
Enter to win—two lucky winners will be chosen to receive a free copy of David Grimm’s Citizen Canine.
Interview with David LaBahn
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on May 1, 2014
ALDF is excited to be the exclusive sponsor of the upcoming 4th National Animal Cruelty Prosecution Conference scheduled for May 5-7 in Atlanta, Georgia. Recently, ALDF spoke with David LaBahn—who is president and CEO of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (APA), a national association that serves as an advocate for prosecutors on emerging issues and the administration of justice. And that’s why the APA is hosting this conference, which is dedicated to the topic of fighting animal cruelty. David explains, “The reason animal abuse is a priority is the link between interpersonal and animal violence.”
This established link—between, for example, domestic violence and cruelty to animals—has become widely accepted by law enforcement and other reporting agencies. As a result, “Many prosecutor offices are moving from being reactive case processors to being proactive and looking at crime prevention. In fact, the mission of APA is to support prosecutors in their efforts to create safer communities. Any efforts to reduce violence must address all forms of violent crime—including animal abuse.” Like ALDF, the APA takes violence against animals seriously.
But fighting animal cruelty is not an easy task for anyone. That’s why working together, and uniting agencies is crucial in this endeavor. “One of the key challenges is building local task forces so that from the crime scene to the courtroom it is a unified effort,” David says. “It does not matter to prosecutors who the investigating agency or department is in any community. Instead, the concern is whether the investigators or officers are properly trained and have the necessary support and resources to do a complete investigation.” Working with the APA, ALDF offers these resources, training, and support.
And prosecutors—the district attorneys who bring criminal cases before the courts—are not the only important players in securing justice for animals. Medical experts, veterinarians, and witnesses are also key players in establishing compelling cases. As David explains, “The next issue is competent medical evidence and whether the veterinarian or other expert is willing and able to testify.” An equally important step is “educating judges and probations as to the importance of the cases.”
That’s why this event can make lasting change—by making needed connections and spreading awareness of these important pieces of the process. “Thanks to the sponsorship of ALDF, we are able to have our 4th National Animal Cruelty Prosecution Conference. This is an opportunity to bring the national experts together to address the issues facing investigators, prosecutors, and advocates so that cases are properly investigated and prosecuted and all involved are trained.” Conferences like these, David says, “are key to bringing folks together and letting them meet and work through the current issues. These introductions will be incredibly helpful as folks return to their home jurisdictions and then have an issue where they need help.”
Reaching out to individuals and organizations is also crucial. That’s why ALDF is here to help in every step of criminal prosecution. “Not only has ALDF helped by sponsoring this conference, they are available to assist prosecutors and investigators with both technical assistance as well as financial support. When I started this program in 2009, Scott Heiser was my first contact at ALDF. Scott is not only an experienced prosecutor, but he was also an elected district attorney, so he understands the issues facing many of our prosecutors. In addition to Scott, Diane Balkin joined the ALDF team and was a chief deputy in Denver for a number of years and knows what it is like to build a program in a major jurisdiction. Finally, I want to also mention Chris Green and the legislative efforts he brings into the equation. While I do not know whether the fight is tougher in the courtrooms or the capitols, this is something we work together to get good laws that can be enforced.”
Laws That Protect Animal and Human “Workers”
Posted by Daniel Lutz, ALDF Litigation Fellow on May 1, 2014
On October 5, 2013, an employee at the G.W. Exotic Animal Park in Wynnewood, Oklahoma suffered serious injuries when a tiger nearly ripped off her arm.
Following the tiger attack, ALDF and other organizations submitted complaints to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in December 2013. OSHA responded with gusto, initiating an investigation only two days after receiving ALDF’s complaint. The four-month investigation led to a citation for numerous violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s “general duty clause.” OSHA found that G.W. Exotics creates risk of death or serious physical harm by exposing human employees to contact with wild animals. The agency proposed a $5,200 fine (now negotiated to $2,400) for failing to protect employees, via protective barriers, from contact with wild animals.
Often, when it comes to abuses at zoos and other captive animal entertainment facilities, the harmed “employees” are not workers but rather captive animals. For example, over twenty tigers recently died at G.W. Exotics. When animals are injured or killed by captivity conditions, OSHA cannot investigate what went wrong and enforce the law. Instead, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has jurisdiction, under the Animal Welfare Act.
Captive animal abuses—even clear Animal Welfare Act violations—rarely lead to more than a slap on the wrist. In a 2010 internal audit, the USDA itself said, “In 1995 and again in 2005, we reported that the monetary penalties were often so low that violators regarded them as a cost of business and that APHIS reduced the stipulations by making them basically meaningless. In our current audit, we found that this problem has not yet been corrected.”
So how encouraging, then, to learn that OSHA responded quickly to the G.W. Exotics attack! While “general duty clause” enforcement is not a sufficient replacement for an industry-wide rule requiring a permanent physical barrier between employees and animals—for which ALDF has petitioned—OSHA’s enforcement actions were noteworthy for three reasons.
- OSHA found that G.W. Exotics “did not adequately protect employees” because it had failed to erect protective barriers separating the employees from dangerous wild animals. Being struck, mauled or bitten by such animals is now a recognized industry hazard.
- OSHA’s enforcement against animal entertainment facilities like G.W. Exotics was recently buoyed by a decision of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. In that case, OSHA similarly issued a “general duty clause” citation to SeaWorld for the death of an orca trainer. Over SeaWorld’s objections that human interaction with orcas does not pose a “hazard,” the Court scoffed. Writing for the majority, Judge Judith Rogers wrote, “The nature of SeaWorld’s workplace and the unusual nature of the hazard to its employees performing in close physical contact with killer whales do not remove SeaWorld from its obligation under the General Duty Clause to protect its employees from recognized hazards.”
- On top of the penalty, OSHA required “abatement,” or that G.W. Exotics take steps to remove the dangerous animal hazard. OSHA specifically suggested that G.W. Exotics follow safety standards set by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS), the preeminent certification body for animal sanctuaries and rescue facilities.
OSHA deserves kudos for its attention to human-wild animal interactions at decrepit, dangerous animal exhibitor facilities. An industry-wide permanent barrier rule would best protect employees and animals alike at facilities across the nation. But at least in the case of G.W. Exotics, the agency has indirectly yet powerfully encouraged the humane, responsible care of captive animals through its emphasis on employee safety.
Judge Orders NYPD to Provide Records on Carriage Horses to ALDF
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on April 28, 2014
More great news for animals—in a hearing today, the New York Supreme Court sided with ALDF in an important case for New York’s carriage horses. Last fall, after being denied access to public records by the New York Police Department (NYPD) for over a year and a half, ALDF petitioned the New York Supreme Court to force NYPD to turn over public records regarding the horse-drawn carriage industry.
In today’s hearing, Judge Shlomo Hagler agreed with ALDF regarding our right to public records under New York’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL, which is similar to the federal Freedom of Information Act or FOIA), and reminded New York’s finest that transparency and an open government are values to be taken seriously. The judge was emphatic about the validity of ALDF’s concern about the treatment (and mistreatment) of horses in the carriage industry. NYPD was instructed to comply with the request in the broad terms it was written.
In fact, the judge ordered the NYPD to produce the documents within 45 days. The court indicated that NYPD’s position—first that they had no records, then that they had records but couldn’t share them with us, and today that they had records and could share them but ALDF had phrased our request poorly—was questionable. NYPD argued that they had no records because a horse getting hit by a car didn’t pertain to horse safety and welfare, but only to the car’s injuries. Like ALDF, the judge disagreed.
“If there was a phone call of abuse of a [carriage horse] then I believe it’s your duty to give that record over,” said Manhattan Supreme Justice Shlomo Hagler to the NYPD.
For more information, read about ALDF’s call to shut down New York’s carriage-horse industry.
ALDF Urges the U.S. to Promote Animal and Consumer Safety in Trade Negotiations
Posted by The Stanford Law School Student Animal Legal Defense Fund on April 25, 2014
What do international trade negotiations have to do with the way animals are treated? More than you might suspect. The federal government is currently in the middle of talks with Europe aimed at forming a sweeping new trade agreement. The goal of an eventual agreement, which will be called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), is to boost trade between the U.S. and Europe. One way of increasing trade may be to revamp regulations—in particular, food regulations—so that more food can be imported on both sides. For example, Europe doesn’t allow as many antibiotics in its meat as the U.S. and so meat produced here often can’t be sold in Europe. Therefore, one result of an agreement may be that food regulations in the U.S. and Europe become more uniform.
This could be a good thing. If Europe agrees to adopt our best practices, and we agree to adopt Europe’s best practices, then consumers and animals on both sides of the Atlantic will win. That’s the position ALDF and 28 other animal rights, environmental, and consumer groups took in a recent letter to the U.S. Trade Representative, who speaks for the President in these negotiations. But if the meat industry gets its way, just the opposite will happen: food safety and animal welfare regulations will weaken on a host of issues. Here are a few of the main issues at stake, which ALDF has asked the federal government to take a stand on:
Decreasing antibiotics use in meat production. As ALDF has noted in its petition to the USDA, excessive use of antibiotics in animals raised for food (to promote rapid animal growth using less feed) is a major contributor to antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections that are estimated to kill more than 23,000 people each year in the U.S. alone. The federal government should tighten regulations on antibiotic use at home, rather than ask European nations to loosen the safety regulations they already have in place.
Banning the animal feed additive “ractopamine.” Europe doesn’t allow the use of ractopamine in meat production or import meat from animals that have been treated with it. That’s because animals treated with ractopamine can suffer serious health problems, and there have never been conclusive, comprehensive studies on the drug’s effects on humans. As ALDF has long argued, in partnership with the Center for Food Safety, U.S. should follow Europe’s lead and ban the drug.
Playing it safe on “mad cow” disease. The U.S. bans the import of feed ingredients that could be contaminated with mad cow disease. Yet the European meat industry is seeking to overturn this ban, even while the E.U. is considering relaxing its own internal preventative measures. Mad cow disease, which affects a cow’s nervous system, destroys the animal’s brain and spinal cord. The fact that incidents of the disease have fallen dramatically in recent years is a sign that existing regulations work, not that they should be weakened.
Defending Country-of-Origin Labeling. The U.S. requires clear labeling that shows where food comes from, which helps consumers make informed decisions. The federal government should stand fast in requiring such labeling, and encourage other nations to take similar steps. In this way, consumers can make informed choices about animal welfare and their diets, both here and abroad.
Every Animal Matters: the 4th National Animal Cruelty Prosecution Conference
Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on April 24, 2014
The Animal Legal Defense Fund is proud to be the exclusive sponsor of the 4th National Animal Cruelty Prosecution Conference—to be held May 5-7 in Atlanta, in partnership with the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (APA). Working behind the scenes with law enforcement, ALDF has secured justice for animal victims in countless cases across the nation. Recently, for example, an ALDF reward helped convict a Brooklyn man responsible for setting a cat on fire. Our million-member strong Abuse an Animal, Go to Jail! campaign also highlights ALDF’s hard work on critical issues of criminal justice for animals.
Right now, ALDF is at the cutting edge of animal law in a precedent-setting criminal case in Oregon known as State v. Nix. In 2012, an abuser was convicted of neglect for the mistreatment of 20 individual starving horses. However, the trial court ruled that the defendant had to only pay one fine and serve one term for one conviction—rather than 20. At the request of the state, ALDF filed a friend of the court brief along with the appeal, and the trial court’s decision was reversed, employing several arguments ALDF made in its brief, ultimately concluding that the horses qualified as individual victims for purposes of sentencing. Following on the heels of Nix (which is pending review by the Oregon Supreme Court), the Legislature enacted SB 6 that made this legislative finding:
- Animals are sentient beings capable of experiencing pain, stress and fear;
- Animals should be cared for in ways that minimize pain, stress, fear and suffering;
Despite these gains in Oregon, and elsewhere, the prosecution of these important cases remains difficult for many jurisdictions. Far too many courts and prosecutor’s offices are under-funded and overwhelmed with casework. Further, it is a prosecutor’s ethical duty only to file charges in cases they feel they can win; if a case is poorly investigated, it can’t be won. Moreover, if animal cruelty is seen as a low priority, prosecutors may overlook these cases. Finally, a case of animal abuse may simply lack the evidence needed to prove that the perpetrator is guilty.
And that’s why ALDF makes it a priority to assist in criminal animal abuse cases by supporting conferences like these and by providing the expertise prosecutors need to put abusers behind bars. Criminal justice is a vital part of the legal process, not only to ensure justice for animals already harmed, but to deter animal abuse in the future by making it clear it will be treated as a serious crime.
At this National Animal Cruelty Prosecution Conference, some of the brightest stars in the field will be sharing their expertise. In attendance will be ALDF’s veteran prosecutors Scott Heiser and Diane Balkin, and ALDF’s legislative expert Chris Green. Vic Reynolds, Cobb County, Georgia district attorney, will be the keynote speaker. Vic was recently honored by ALDF as one of the nation’s Top Ten Animal Defenders during National Justice for Animals Week 2014. APA president David LaBahn—who was also honored as a top animal defender—will discuss legislative policies to help animals. Check out the full agenda for this outstanding conference.
ALDF is pleased to continue to develop our collaboration with the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys in recognition of the importance of aggressively prosecuting animal cruelty. These cases must be a top priority for all law enforcement officials. For more details about the conference, visit APAInc.org and register online.