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

Seek Permit Revocation of Puerto Rico Zoo

The Animal Legal Defense Fund submitted complaints to the Puerto Rico Department of Agriculture and the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources. More than 100 animals live in abysmal conditions at Puerto Rico’s only official zoo.

Demanding USDA Strengthen and Enforce AWA Licensees’ Recordkeeping Requirement for All Animal Deaths

A petition for rulemaking was submitted to the USDA’s APHIS urging the agency to issue a rule under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) that would require licensees to record all instances of animal mortality occurring to animals in their possession — and file the mortality reports with the agency every three years.

Demanding USDA Revoke Animal Welfare Act License from Pennsylvania Roadside Zoo Claws ‘N’ Paws

The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a complaint urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to investigate and enforce the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and its implementing regulations to decline to re-issue the exhibitor license of Pennsylvania roadside zoo, Claws ‘N’ Paws, which expires in May 2022.
Image from East Texas Zoo and Gator Park Facebook page

Demanding Investigation into Texas Exhibitor Jason Clay for Ongoing OSHA Violations

The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a complaint urging the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) to inspect and appropriately enforce action against wild animal exhibitor Jason Clay for ongoing OSHA violations and resulting animal attack causing substantial injuries to an employee at his Texas facility.

Urging USDA to Enforce Animal Welfare Act Requirements for Social Media Exhibitors

The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a complaint against the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to demand enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) for animal exhibitions on YouTube, TikTok, and other social media platforms without proper licensing.

Demanding USDA Revoke Animal Welfare Act License from Texas Exhibitor Jason Clay (2022)

The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a complaint requesting the USDA investigate and enforce the AWA against licensee Jason Clay who is doing business in Texas as two entities, Franklin Drive Thru Safari and East Texas Zoo & Gator Park.

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