The Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Animal Law Update is a series highlighting legal and policy developments in the rapidly emerging field of animal law.

The global “rights of nature” movement — which seeks to secure legal rights, including standing, for features of the environment like rivers, forests, and ecosystems — continues to advance with two significant developments in North America.
Madras High Court Uses Child Custody Approach to Resolve Dispute Over Legal Ownership of Elephant
In October 2020, the Madras High Court in India resolved an “ownership” dispute involving an elephant named Lalitha using the “best interests” standard used in child custody cases.

After Groundbreaking Animal Rights Ruling, Islamabad High Court Continues to Affirm Original Decision

In the months following a groundbreaking decision from the Islamabad High Court in Pakistan that animals have legal and natural rights, Chief Justice Athar Minallah issued three subsequent orders, each affirming the court’s original ruling and expressing continued interest in the animals’ well-being.

France to End Mink Farming, Use of Wild Animals in Traveling Circuses, and Captivity of Orcas and Dolphins in Marine Parks

As part of a broad package of animal protection measures, France has banned the farming of mink for their fur, captivity of dolphins and orcas in marine parks, and the use of wild animals in traveling circuses. Also included are new standards to improve the well-being of some species of animals held in zoos.
chicken in a cage

Czech Republic Bans Cages for Hens

On November 13, 2020, the Czech Parliament approved a ban on the use of cages to confine hens used for their eggs or for breeding. Following final approval by President Miloš Zemanh, the new law will become effective in 2027 after a 7-year phase-in period and affect approximately 4.5 million hens per year.

New California Laws Aim to Save More Companion Animals in Shelters

California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed two bills intended to reduce the killing of adoptable companion animals in the state.
The Islamabad High Court has held that animals have natural rights and are entitled to protection under the Pakistani constitution. The case before the court was threefold, involving an elephant held in solitary confinement at a zoo, a rescued bear who had been forced to “dance” and perform tricks, and the killing of stray dogs.

New German Law Will Mandate Minimum Exercise Requirements for Dogs

Proposed amendments to Germany’s Animal Welfare Act aimed at ensuring the species-specific needs of dogs are met include minimum exercise requirements, tethering prohibitions, and a ban on exhibiting dogs who have been bred to have characteristics that cause physical distress.

Though Ruled Unconstitutional, Industry Continues Pushing Ag-Gag Laws: Updates in North Carolina, Kansas, Iowa, and Ontario

In the first half of 2020, there were multiple developments in the realm of Ag-Gag laws — so named because they criminalize whistleblowing and undercover investigations in agricultural facilities, thus “gagging” activists and others who expose animal abuse in factory farms and slaughterhouses.
dog and vet

New Kentucky Law Allows Veterinarians to Report Animal Cruelty

Kentucky has amended its law prohibiting veterinarians from reporting suspected animal cruelty. Advocates worked for years to change this law, which had good intentions regarding personal privacy but unintended consequences for animal victims of abuse.

China Reclassifies Dogs from “Livestock” to “Companion Animals”

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and mounting criticism of the dog meat trade from Chinese citizens, the national government of China has issued draft guidelines to reclassify dogs from “livestock” to “companion animals.”