A law is only as strong as its rate of enforcement

The Animal Legal Defense Fund brings lawsuits to enforce animal protection laws. But sometimes we aren’t able to sue, to help animals who are being harmed.

This may be because there is no law being violated, or because the government agencies charged with enforcing the laws refuse to do so and we do not have the standing to bring a lawsuit ourselves.

Government agencies are often tasked with interpreting and implementing laws. This includes regulations that agencies create and execute. The body of law involving these agencies is called “administrative law,” and the process of enacting and enforcing rules and regulations is the “regulatory process.”

We advocate for better, stronger animal protection laws and regulations. And we also use the regulatory process, to urge agencies to fulfill their duties and protect animals to the extent required by the law.

Here are some ways that the Animal Legal Defense Fund works within the regulatory process to protect animals:

  • We file petitions for rulemaking: The Administrative Procedures Act allows any person or organization to request that a federal agency issue, amend or repeal a rule or regulation. We ask for tougher regulations and rules that are within the agency’s purview.
  • We submit comments on proposed rules and regulations: Agencies considering changes to rules or regulations, or new rules or regulations, will solicit comments from the public and interested organizations. These comments must be considered, before the proposed changes may be made.
  • We also put out alerts encouraging the public to submit comments of their own so the agency will aware that this is an issue people care about — and, with a critical mass of comments, will be inclined to respond to the public’s concerns. This is a critically important part of the regulatory process.
  • We ask agencies to fulfill their regulatory duties: Regulations and rules must be enforced, to be effective. The Animal Legal Defense Fund urges agencies to fulfill their regulatory duties, when they have failed to do so — and we issue alerts asking the public to do the same.This is an especially helpful course of action when someone is violating the law in ways that harm animals, but there is no “standing” for us to bring a lawsuit.

When possible and necessary, these requests may be followed by lawsuits, asking courts to compel agencies to fulfill their legal duties.

Recent Cases

dairy cows

Urging the EPA to Regulate Factory Farms’ Air Pollution

The Animal Legal Defense Fund and coalition partners have petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to rescind a 16-year-old agreement not to enforce clean air regulations and public disclosure requirements related to air emissions for thousands of factory farms.
cow in factory farming

Urging the California Air Resources Board to Stop Factory Farms from Profiting from Pollution

On October 27, 2021, the Animal Legal Defense Fund and coalition partners took action by submitting a petition for rulemaking to the California Air Resources Board, the agency within California’s Environmental Protection Agency charged with improving air quality.

Demanding the USDA Regulate the Mass Disposal of Farmed Animals During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Animal Legal Defense Fund joined a coalition petitioning the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ban the mass burial and on-site incineration of animals on factory farms during the COVID-19 pandemic

Emergency Petition to Food & Drug Administration to Suspend Ractopamine Use

The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed an emergency petition with the Food and Drug Administration to suspend the agency’s approval of ractopamine — a drug used to rapidly grow muscle in cows and pigs, which can harm the animals and the environment.

Ending Killing Contests in Colorado

In 2020, Colorado adopted regulations banning killing contests for coyotes and foxes, as well as other small mammals.

Ending Killing Contests in Massachusetts

In 2019, Massachusetts adopted regulations banning killing contests for certain animals, including coyotes, foxes, and bobcats.

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