Recent Victories for ALDF’s Litigation ProgramPosted by Matthew Liebman, ALDF Staff Attorney on February 23, 2009
ALDF’s Litigation Program scored a pair of important legal victories in the past two weeks, both of which will significantly push forward our lawsuits to protect animals.
In Kasey v. Estill County, one of ALDF’s Kentucky animal shelter cases, Circuit Court Judge Thomas Jones denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The defendants argued that the plaintiff lacked standing to pursue the case. Standing is a legal doctrine that requires the plaintiff to have suffered an injury that was caused by the defendant and that the court is capable of redressing. Without proving such an injury, a lawsuit is over before it starts. Regardless of how illegal the conduct is, if the plaintiff cannot demonstrate standing, she cannot sue. Standing is almost always a major hurdle in animal protection cases, because animals themselves lack standing: their injuries are not legally cognizable. For this reason, we lawyers are forced to cast the injury as one to a human plaintiff.
So when we decided to sue Estill County for maintaining a facility that denied dogs and cats their basic needs, we needed to find a human-centered injury, because the animals themselves cannot be our plaintiffs and their injuries cannot form the basis for standing. We discovered that Kentucky permits “taxpayer standing” in certain cases; in other words, taxpayers have a legal interest in not having their tax dollars spent illegally. In our case, we argued that our plaintiff, Angelika Kasey, had paid income and property taxes for years and that, as a taxpayer, she is injured when her taxes are spent on a shelter that violates Kentucky’s Humane Shelter Law. Judge Jones agreed with ALDF and held that Ms. Kasey has standing to pursue the lawsuit.
The ruling does not mean that we have won the case, only that our plaintiff has standing to bring the case in the first place. It now falls on us to prove that the conditions and neglect at the Estill Shelter in fact violates Kentucky law. Given the conditions of the shelter, we are confident that we can do so.
Just a few days later, we traveled to North Carolina to argue a motion for costs of care in ALDF v. Keating, a case involving eight neglected horses. North Carolina’s unique civil cruelty law permits a shelter that has taken in seized animals to recover the costs it has expended in caring for the animals. The United States Equine Rescue League, our co-plaintiff in Keating, has been sheltering the six seized horses since mid-December. It has incurred significant costs related to veterinary care, food, and shelter for the horses. Thankfully North Carolina has made the judgment that the costs of caring for the victims of animal cruelty should be borne by those who inflicted the cruelty, not by the altruistic shelters who step in to provide necessary care when the defendants have refused to do so. After a lengthy hearing, Judge Vince Rozier agreed with ALDF and awarded USERL the full amount it sought: $8,372.46. It should be noted that these funds represent the bare minimum necessary to care for the horses. The case is not over yet, but this is an important victory for these animals.