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

Keep the USDA Transparent and Accountable

In early 2018, the USDA proposed action that could dramatically reduce government oversight of animal facilities like puppy mills.

Opposing International Wildlife Conservation Council

The Animal Legal Defense Fund submitted a substantial objection comment letter to the United States Department of Interior’s proposal to create a so-called International Wildlife Conservation Council.

Opposing Feld Entertainment’s Tiger Export

The Animal Legal Defense Fund objects to granting Feld Entertainment a permit to export big cats to Germany.

Urging California Air Resources Board to Regulate Factory Farm Emissions

In 2014, the Animal Legal Defense Fund submitted a petition for rulemaking urging the California Air Resources Board to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from factory farming under the state’s cap-and-trade program.

Urging the FDA to Regulate the Term “Natural”

The Animal Legal Defense Fund submitted comments to the FDA calling on the agency to work with the USDA to prevent consumer deception from meat products bearing misleading “natural” labeling claims.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund submitted a petition for rulemaking to the USDA proposing two amendments to the federal Animal Welfare Act.

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