To Buy, or Stand By…

Posted by Dana Campbell, ALDF Attorney on November 10, 2008

Here’s the dilemma that some folks I know faced recently, and it’s not the first time that this issue has arisen while I’ve worked for ALDF:

Say a county has seized a bunch of neglected or abused farm animals, or an exotic animal dealer or roadside animal exhibit has shut down, leading to an auction of the animals by either the owners or the county. We can all agree that selling off the animals this way is a bad idea, especially if there are no protections in place to assure they are going to good homes instead of with questionable exhibitors, or back into the hands of their abusers or the abusers’ friends and relatives. A better practice would be to have the county or local humane society take charge of screening potential applicants and investigating their ties to the abuser, if any, and then making thoughtful placements into each new home.

Nevertheless, assume efforts to halt or restructure the auction have failed–do you and your friends or rescue group get organized to go in and buy the animals yourselves and then find them homes so you can assure them a safe, non-exploitative future? Or do you refrain from doing so to prevent enriching the sellers so they cannot then just turn around and use the money to acquire more animals, thus enabling them to stay in the animal business? [In the case of a county or court-ordered auction, the proceeds would go first to reimburse the county’s costs of sale, and then to the abuser.]

In the cases that have crossed my desk, the rescuers, though diverse, have consistently decided to do what they could to buy and save the animals they knew were in jeopardy today, and declined to speculate on how the sellers would respond tomorrow.

What would you do? Why? Let us know in the Comments below.

One thought on “To Buy, or Stand By…

  1. Chris B says:

    What an awful dilemma! I would say I agree with the “buy the animals at auction approach.” If the seller makes roughly the same amount of money with animal attorneys auctioning as without, then he’s in no better position to finance further exploitation AND the animals are in a safe home. However, the best approach is to find a 3rd route (so you don’t have to choose one of the dilemma paths). This would include lobbying for statutes that give you the procedural leverage you need to entrust the animals to the humane society; or, you need a better legal strategy/argument to halt the auctions. Intuitively, I find it natural to suppose that (1) the law would change to make this accommodation and (2) a judge would want to find in favor of you because it makes absolutely no sense for the economic incentives to lay where they do. Why would there be legal protections for abused animals, yet monetary reimbursement for the abuser to abuse again??? Economic law theorists should be outraged by this!

    An alternative approach to resolve your dilemma may also be to encourage the county overseeing the auction to expend as much money as it can so that the auction money goes entirely to the county to recoup its “costs.”

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