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 Endangered 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.