Blog Archives - Page 5 of 86 - Animal Legal Defense Fund

Alaska Legislature Becomes First to Require Consideration of Animals’ Interests in Custody Cases

Posted by Nicole Pallotta, Academic Outreach Manager on January 20, 2017

With the adoption of an amendment to its divorce law, Alaska has become the first state to empower judges to take into account the “well-being of the animal” in custody disputes involving nonhuman family members. The bipartisan HB 147, which was signed by Gov. Bill Walker in October 2016 and becomes effective Jan. 17, 2017, will be the first law in the nation to expressly require courts to address the interests of companion animals when deciding how to assign ownership in divorce and dissolution proceedings. It is also the first to explicitly allow joint ownership of a companion animal.

With the new amendments in HB 147, Alaska also becomes the 32nd state to allow companion animals to be included in domestic violence protective orders, and permits a court to order that the abuser pay financial support for a pet in the care of the human victim, if that abuser has a legal obligation to care for the pet.

While the amendments regarding domestic violence protection and costs of care are important steps forward for companion animals in Alaska, the provision requiring consideration of animals’ well-being when deciding their legal ownership is groundbreaking and unique. Even though judges throughout the US can already choose, in their discretion, to consider an animal’s best interests, no other state legislature has required judges to do so when adjudicating property distribution upon the dissolution of a marriage.

To those of us who share our lives with animals, it may seem obvious that their interests should be one of the factors under consideration in custody cases. However, because animals are classified as personal property under the law, this has not typically been the case. In fact, the word “custody” is a misnomer in these cases, which are legally about “property distribution.”

Although the increase in custody battles over companion animals demonstrates their evolving social importance as family members, courts typically resolve these disputes based on one criterion: the property status of the animal. In other words, which party is the more rightful “owner” under the law? This issue can get murky when a couple has been jointly caring for an animal for years and sharing veterinary expenses, food and other custodial costs (as well as intangible “costs” like time spent with the animal), despite who may have initially paid any fees in acquiring the animal.

In custody disputes involving companion animals, the Animal Legal Defense Fund has long advocated through our amicus (or “friend of the court”) briefs for judges to take into account the interests of the animal when determining custody (as with children). Although not generally mandated by legislatures to consider an animal’s well-being or treat the animal differently from other property that must be fairly divided after a breakup, a handful of cases have acknowledged that people have a special relationship with their companion animals that sets them apart from other types of property.

Alaska’s new law codifies the inconsistently applied acknowledgement that animals are fundamentally different from other forms of property. Rep. Liz Vasquez, the bill’s sponsor, said: “Pets are truly members of our families. We care for them as more than just property. As such, the courts should grant them more consideration. It’s only natural.”

As few laws exist that bring the interests of an individual animal before the court, Alaska’s new statute represents significant progress for animals in the legal system. It remains to be seen if other states will adopt similar legislation, but Alaska has taken an important step in recognizing our evolving social relationship with companion animals, and their value beyond mere property.

Further Reading:

No Comments  |  Leave A Comment

2016 Highlights

Posted by Stephen Wells, Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director on January 19, 2017

Legally Brief

2016 was another busy year for the Animal Legal Defense Fund in our efforts to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. Three cases in particular highlight the importance and the broad range of our continuous work on behalf of animals.

In February, the Animal Legal Defense Fund victoriously sued Cricket Hollow Zoo, now known as Cricket Hollow Animal Park, on behalf of four tigers and three lemurs provided substandard care. This landmark victory is the first successful use of the Edangered Species Act (ESA) to obtain a court-ordered removal of animals from captivity due to substandard conditions. This case also established that isolation of social animals can be considered a violation of the ESA. Six months after our win, African Lions were granted ESA protection and we immediately filed another lawsuit on behalf of Jonwah and Njjarra–two African lions held at Cricket Hollow. We secured their release to The Wild Animal Sanctuary, where Jonwah received lifesaving veterinary care to address a critical digestive problem that had likely developed as a result of her substandard care.

In June, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that the legal owner of an emaciated dog, Juno, did not have a protected privacy interest in the blood drawn, that was done as part of a routine exam evaluating Juno’s health. The Animal Legal Defense Fund had led a coalition to file an amicus brief in the case, State vs. Newcombe. In its ruling, the Court recognized animals’ unique nature: while legally considered property, they are “sentient beings capable of experiencing pain, stress and fear,” according to legislation that we helped enact in 2013. As explained in the ruling:

“Oregon law prohibits humans from treating animals in ways that humans are free to treat other forms of property … A person can be as cruel or abusive as she wants to her own stereo or folder, and can neglect the maintenance of a car to the point where it will not operate, without legal consequence. The same is not true of an animal that a person owns or has custody of or control over.”

In September, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania affirmed the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s “derivative contraband” strategy to prevent the forced return of seized animals to neglectful guardians. Luke, a pit bull puppy, was seized by law enforcement after suffering a shattered shoulder allegedly at the hands of his legal owner, who was charged with animal cruelty. At trial, the acquitted owner demanded that the state return Luke. We worked with the prosecutor to develop the unique legal argument that ultimately succeeded in preventing Luke’s return to a neglectful environment.

These victories changed life for individual animals, and will impact so many others in the future. Ultimately, none of this could have happened without the steadfast support of our members. As the new year opens, we are already finding new opportunities to achieve legal victories for animals, and we look forward to having you by our side along the way.

No Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Why I applied to law school instead of veterinary school

Posted by Kelly Levenda, Student Programs Attorney on January 17, 2017

kelly-150During the first week of December, Animal Legal Defense Fund founder Joyce Tischler presented the History of Animal Law at Harvard Law School. She discussed her path to founding the Animal Legal Defense Fund and its early cases, legal theories and victories. These included halting a U.S. Navy plan to kill more than 5,000 wild burros, bringing four Animal Welfare Act lawsuits to protect animals used in experimentation and the first legal challenges of cruel agricultural practices, like force feeding ducks to create foie gras and iron deprivation and confinement of calves who are slaughtered for veal. I heard Joyce give a similar talk eight years ago at the University of Chicago Law School, and it was a turning point for me.

I had just received my undergraduate degree in pre-veterinary animal science from one of the top agricultural science schools, but I did not apply to veterinary school as I had originally planned. During my undergraduate studies, my eyes were opened to the cruelties that animals suffer when they are farmed. This includes having their bodies modified (such as removing their testicles, tails, horns or parts of beaks) without painkillers, being kept in intensive confinement where they cannot turn around, extend their wings or lie down comfortably and calves being taken away from their mothers shortly after birth. After witnessing some of these injustices firsthand as part of my degree, I could no longer stomach veterinary school, and was committed to spending my life fighting to protect animals a different way.


During my last semester of college, I came across the Animal Legal Defense Fund website. I was thrilled at the idea of using the law to advocate for and protect animals. I saw that Joyce Tischler was speaking on the history of animal law a few weeks later. Hearing this talk was what inspired me to apply to law school to study animal law. I took advantage of the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s resources and opportunities for students. I was able to receive an Advancement of Animal Law Scholarship, clerk and complete a fellowship for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, attend the Animal Law Conference and obtain Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) project grants so that the chapter I was leading could hold events. Now I’m an attorney at the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and I manage the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund program. I am fortunate to be able to assist the future attorneys, legislators and judges who will be influential in changing the law to better protect animals.

Are you thinking of attending law school and want to help animals? Check out our resources to guide you:

No Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Live Animal Mascots: A Tradition of Exploitation, Not Conservation

Posted by Stephen Wells, Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director on January 13, 2017

Legally Brief

Since 1936, Louisiana State University has kept a series of live tigers as mascots, all named Mike. The most recent tiger, Mike VI, was euthanized in October after a four-month battle with cancer. LSU also promotes Mike as a tourist attraction, and has already begun searching for Mike VII.

blog_tigermascotAll tigers are classified as endangered species. They need meaningful conservation, not exploitation for entertainment. LSU’s archaic tradition should be laid to rest, rather than perpetuating America’s tiger surplus by helping a commercial breeder stay in business just for the sake of obtaining a live mascot for use as an entertainment prop.

In 2007, LSU acquired Mike VI from an Indiana breeder-dealer whose federal license to exhibit and deal animals was permanently revoked in 2010 when federal officials found dozens of serious violations of the minimum standards of care prescribed by the federal Animal Welfare Act. Mike VI, like most tigers in America, was a “generic tiger,” meaning he was intentionally cross-bred—a practice embraced by many unscrupulous exhibitors around the country that took advantage of a since-closed legal loophole to skirt U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service protection and regulation.

The university’s athletics website proudly describes what a typical Saturday afternoon for the LSU mascot has been like:

Mike’s ride through Tiger Stadium before home games in a travel trailer topped by the LSU cheerleaders is a school tradition. Before entering the stadium, his cage on wheels is parked next to the opponent’s locker room … Opposing players must make their way past Mike’s cage to reach their locker room.

These tigers have spent their lives in captivity just to be an accessory to the sports season.

LSU’s site also recalls a day from the life of Mike IV:

Pranksters cut the locks on Mike IV’s cage and freed him in the early-morning hours. Mike roamed free…before being trapped in the Bernie Moore Track Stadium where veterinarian Dr. Sheldon Bivin used tranquilizer guns to capture and return the Bengal Tiger to his home.

These are the stories about Mike’s captivity that the university is eager to advertise.

Studies show that people who see exotic animals forced to live in artificial settings not only learn nothing at all about the species, but also walk away with reduced interest in legitimate conservation efforts.

We strongly encourage LSU, and every university with a live animal mascot, to only utilize costumed human mascots—who are more entertaining, less likely to pose a threat, and do not require subjecting apex predators to lives of deprivation of their complex needs. Southern University in Baton Rouge has elected to use only human mascots since its last live mascot, a jaguar named Lacumba, was found dead in the cage in which she was confined in 2004.

Keeping a live animal mascot—especially an endangered species—has everything to do with catering to the whims of fans and boosters, and nothing to do with legitimate conservation. Any 21st-century institution of higher learning should know better than to condone and actively participate in the commercial trade and exploitation of exotic animals. We’ve learned from history time and again that “tradition” is not a sufficient reason to continue exploitative practices. The time has come for LSU to turn away from a tradition of exploitation, and to contribute to legitimate tiger conservation.

No Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Animal Law at the 111th Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Annual Meeting

Posted by Nicole Pallotta, Academic Outreach Manager on January 12, 2017

The Animal Legal Defense Fund attended the 111th Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Annual Meeting in San Francisco, Jan. 4-7, 2016, where “thousands of law faculty, deans, administrators, and scholars gather each year to connect and collaborate with colleagues, discuss critical and emerging legal issues, and attend programs focused on fresh perspectives on law and legal education.” Under the theme “Why Law Matters,” the conference featured over 250 sessions on varied topics, including animal law.


At our booth in the exhibit hall we connected with the legal community and shared information about the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s academic resources with law professors interested in teaching animal law, career services counselors whose students are curious about opportunities in the field, and anyone with an interest in protecting animals.

We hosted our 10th Annual Animal Law Reception at AALS on Friday evening, which gave conference attendees and local law professionals an opportunity to mingle with colleagues from the animal law community, meet Animal Legal Defense Fund staff and learn more about our work. During the reception, Executive Director Stephen Wells presented an overview of the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s mission and recent victories for animals, followed by a screening of our Advances for Animals in 2016 video.

The field of animal law has undergone tremendous academic growth since we first attended AALS in 2005. At that time, around 50 law schools had offered a course in animal law. Today, that number has grown to more than 160 schools. And since then, two law schools — Lewis & Clark and Harvard — have launched full-fledged animal law programs. A pioneer in the field since 2008, Lewis & Clark Law School’s robust Center for Animal Law Studies (CALS), in collaboration with the Animal Legal Defense Fund, offers the world’s first LLM degree in animal law, a summer animal law program, and more than 30 courses in animal law, while the newer Harvard Animal Law and Policy Program offers academic fellowships, courses and more. In addition to the two animal law clinics currently operating at Lewis & Clark and the University of Buffalo, Michigan State University College of Law, already home to the Animal Legal & Historical Web Center, will launch its new Animal Welfare Clinic later this year.

As the only organization dedicated to protecting animals through the legal system, the Animal Legal Defense Fund is proud to continue fostering the growth of the field of animal law. Keep an eye on our event page or sign up for our law professional or law student e-newsletters to stay in the loop on animal law events happening in your area!

No Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Sign Now: Tell the SEC to Stop Tyson Foods’ Lies

Posted by on January 9, 2017

We need you to join our fight against the cruelty of factory farms. In September 2015 the Animal Legal Defense Fund released undercover footage from a Tyson Foods plant that revealed flagrant violations of state and federal law. We’re working hard to hold Tyson accountable and we need your help as we urge the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to expedite their investigation of Tyson’s deceptions.

Sign now—urge the SEC to hold Tyson to the law.


Tyson Foods entices investors with false promises of superior animal treatment and care for its workers. Its practices reveal a drastically different reality including shocking animal cruelty and safety violations.

Tell the SEC to expedite their review and bring enforcement action against Tyson to the greatest extent of the law.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund is committed to exposing the horrors of factory farming and holding companies accountable to the law.

No Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Animal Legal Defense Fund Files Anti-SLAPP Motion Against Landry’s Defamation Suit

Posted by on January 8, 2017

National nonprofit questions the captivity and conditions of four endangered white tigers

Contact: Natalia Lima,, 201 679 7088

HOUSTON – The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a motion asking a Harris County judge to dismiss a baseless lawsuit filed by Landry’s Inc. and the Downtown Aquarium Inc. that claims the animal protection organization defamed Landry’s restaurant simply by publicly commenting on the long-controversial mistreatment of four white tigers, Nero, Marina, Coral and Reef. The tigers—who have never had adequate access to sunlight, fresh air or natural surfaces—have been housed indoors at the Downtown Aquarium and restaurant for 12 years.

The motion was filed by Houston law firm Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos Alavi & Mensing P.C., or AZA, under the Texas Anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) statute. This law allows judges to dismiss meritless lawsuits filed against those who speak out about a “matter of public concern.”

The Animal Legal Defense Fund announced its concerns about the four tigers in September when it delivered a 60-day notice of intent to sue—as required by the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA)—on behalf of Cheryl Conley, a Montgomery County woman who says she witnessed violations of the ESA at the downtown facility. Before the 60-day-notice period expired, Landry’s pre-empted the organization and Ms. Conley by suing for defamation.

“This is a blatant attempt to silence free speech,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “Baseless lawsuits like this are often used in an attempt to intimidate and silence advocates—which is exactly why Texas has an anti-SLAPP law. Our primary concern is the health and wellbeing of the tigers—and we will not be deterred.”

AZA lawyer Adam Milasincic argues that Landry’s and its CEO and owner Tilman Fertitta, star of a reality TV show “Billion Dollar Buyer,” are public figures which makes discussions of the tigers’ confinement a public concern even beyond the concern about the tigers’ welfare.

“This suit’s intention is to dissuade animal advocates from starting a public dialogue about the care and environment these tigers are entitled to under federal law— including the protected right to thrive ,” says Mr. Milasincic.

The anti-SLAPP law allows not only for dismissal of meritless lawsuits, but for fines against those who use them to silence free speech. Ms. Conley filed a separate anti-SLAPP motion requesting dismissal. Her lawyer Ashish Mahendru of Mahendru P.C. calls Mr. Fertitta a “Billion-Dollar bully.” Mr. Mahendru’s motion asks for fines and for Landry’s to be forced to “shut down the tiger enclosure as a sanction for the malicious use of the judicial system to silence its critics. Otherwise, it’s not simply the tigers who are condemned to imprisonment. It’s also the rights of noble citizens like Cheryl Conley that are being violated.”

The lawsuit is Landry’s, Inc. and the Downtown Aquarium, Inc. v. Animal Legal Defense Fund et al. No. 2016-79698 in Harris County’s 334th District Court.

Tags: ,
No Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Animal Legal Defense Fund Urges Securities and Exchange Commission to Expedite Investigation of Tyson Foods

Posted by on January 8, 2017

Contact: Natalia Lima,, 201 679 7088

SAN FRANCISCO—Tyson Foods has come under fire in recent years after several high-profile exposés and investigations. The Animal Legal Defense Fund, the nation’s preeminent legal organization for animals, is now urging the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to expedite an investigation of the chicken producer in relation to the organization’s 2015 undercover investigation of a Tyson Foods slaughter plant.

The SEC is charged with protecting investors, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund is urging the agency to stop Tyson Foods from enticing investors with false promises of superior animal treatment and care for its workers. Although the company attempts to portray itself as prioritizing responsible farmed animal care and worker safety, its practices reveal a drastically different reality.

Undercover video footage, obtained in a Tyson Foods Carthage, Texas processing plant, clearly shows the extremely fast speed at which chickens are hung and slaughtered. Employees are expected to hang 35 chickens per minute, which greatly increases the possibility of equipment jamming in processing plants—an issue which is captured multiple times on video, killing hundreds of birds through suffocation. The speed also makes it impossible to handle the birds in a humane fashion and creates safety concerns for Tyson Foods employees.

“Our investigation proves that the cruel treatment of chickens by Tyson Foods is not isolated incidents, but a systematic, companywide problem,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “Tyson Foods is putting profits over not only ethical standards, but state and federal laws.”

The Animal Legal Defense Fund first filed a complaint with the SEC in September 2015 asking for an investigation and enforcement of legal violations revealed by the undercover footage. In September 2016 the organization sent a follow up request to the SEC, which was routed to the agency’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy for further review.

Investors place increasing weight on issues of corporate social responsibility due to the impacts such issues have on consumer purchasing decisions, and thus stock price. The Animal Legal Defense Fund urges the SEC to hold Tyson Foods accountable for deliberately deceiving investors through false and misleading statements.

To view video footage and get more information about the Animal Legal Defense Funds’ undercover investigation of Tyson Foods, visit

No Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Advances for Animals in 2016

Posted by on January 6, 2017

From the first major victory in an Endangered Species Act lawsuit brought on behalf of animals in captivity, to a cutting edge legal strategy that saved a puppy from an abusive situation, to an undercover investigation that’s still sending shockwaves through the factory farm industry—thanks to your generous support—the Animal Legal Defense Fund spent 2016 fighting for animal protection on every front.

Today—and everyday—we thank you for your unwavering support. These are your victories.

We still have a lot of work ahead of us in 2017—and we’re so glad we have you by our side. Thank you for your support in 2016—and thank you for your support in the coming year.

No Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Take Action: Help Stop 2 Coyote Killing Contests on Federal Land

Posted by on January 4, 2017

We need your help today to stop two massive coyote killing contests, one of which is scheduled for this Saturday. These two contests are set to take place in Wyoming, partially on federal property, and they don’t have the necessary permits for these killing sprees.

Act today—contact the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and politely urge them not to let these killing contests occur in violation of federal regulations.


According to federal regulations, the reason permits are required is to manage visitor use, protect natural and cultural resources, minimize recreational use conflicts and provide for the health and safety of visitors. All of these concerns are at play when it comes to the upcoming coyote killing contests.

As an American taxpayer, we need you to contact the BLM today on behalf of coyotes.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund and a coalition of other animal protection organizations have already contacted BLM pointing out the legal permit requirements and demanding the killing contests be cancelled. Please add your voice and help us pressure the only agency that can stop these contests.

No Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Coalition Urges Federal Agency to Regulate Unpermitted Coyote Killing Contests

Posted by on January 4, 2017

Coyote Hunts Lack Necessary Permits and Threaten Public Safety and Natural Resources

Contact: Natalia Lima,, 201 679 7088

JACKSON, WY—Animal protection and environmental organizations submitted a written request to the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) urging the agency to enforce its own regulations regarding two Rock Springs, Wyoming, coyote-hunting contests scheduled to take place in the coming weeks. The purpose of such contests is to kill as many coyotes as possible, and prizes are awarded to those who shoot the most. The Rock Springs contests are slated to take place partly on BLM-managed federal land—and contest organizers have failed to obtain the requisite permits and liability insurance.

The first of these upcoming contests, the “Wyoming Coyote Classic,” is scheduled for this Saturday, January 7. In light of the impending date, the coalition is turning up the pressure, encouraging their members and supporters to contact the BLM field office to demand it take action this week.

Federal regulations require that certain commercial and competitive events held on BLM lands have a “special recreation permit” in order to lawfully take place. Both upcoming Rock Springs contests constitute commercial and competitive use of BLM land and therefore require these permits. According to BLM regulations, the purpose of requiring special recreation permits is to manage visitor use, protect natural and cultural resources, minimize recreational use conflicts and provide for the health and safety of visitors.

These planned contests pose great risk to natural resources, as contestants are freely using public lands to shoot as many coyotes as possible. Without permits, recreational use conflicts are almost certain, which raises safety concerns for visitors not aware of or not participating in the contest. With participants competing to kill as many coyotes as possible in a short period of time, there is an increased risk that participants will act carelessly, possibly injuring other recreational users or even killing visitors’ dogs on public lands.

“Killing contests are simply blood sport,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “They are completely inconsistent with proper wildlife management, which recognizes coyotes as essential members of healthy ecosystems, not targets to be killed for ‘fun.’”

The event promoters have also failed to obtain the federally mandated liability insurance prior to hosting the contests. Both upcoming events have no age restrictions, and contestants may enter without prior firearm experience. Serious hunting injuries are especially common among younger and inexperienced participants. As property managers, the federal government could be held liable if a participant or bystander is injured during these contests, putting public safety and taxpayer money at risk.

“Wyoming coyotes can be legally persecuted in almost any manner imaginable,” says Program Director Kristin Combs of Wyoming Untrapped. “Like trapping, these ‘recreational’ contests are not based on a sound science foundation, and it’s time to reform these archaic ‘wildlife management’ practices.”

The Animal Legal Defense Fund is the nation’s preeminent legal advocacy organization for animals and has taken on coyote killing contests in the past, including shutting down a Kansas event several months ago. In addition to the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Wyoming Untrapped, the coalition currently pressuring the BLM includes the Center for Biological Diversity, Good Wolf, Nevada Wildlife Alliance, Project Coyote, WildEarth Guardians, Wyoming Untrapped, Wyoming Wildlife Advocates, and Western Watersheds Project.

For more information visit,

No Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Governor Snyder Wants Open Season on Michigan Wolves

Posted by on December 28, 2016

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

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

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

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

No Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Honoring a Hero for Animals

Posted by on December 21, 2016

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


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

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

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

No Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Quebec Court of Appeal Overturns Suspension of Montreal Pit Bull Ban

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

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

Brindle pit bull puppy cuddles on a couch

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further Reading:

No Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Dogs and Cats Need You-Take Action Today

Posted by on December 15, 2016

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Take Action

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

No Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Be a Partner in Protection!

Donate monthly to help animals.

or make a one-time gift »

ALDF's Online Store

Help fund our lifesaving work!


Stay Connected

Sign up for Action Alerts.

Join Us

Follow ALDF on these networks:

Stay Connected

Sign up for Action Alerts.