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

Opposing SeaWorld San Diego Permit for Expansion

The Animal Legal Defense Fund opposed the expansion of SeaWorld San Diego without strict requirements, including not acquiring additional orcas.

Urging USDA investigation of Meat Animal Research Center

The Animal Legal Defense Fund sent a letter to the Office of Inspector General urging an investigation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Meat Animal Research Center’s animal cruelty.

Urging the Extension of Endangered Status to Captive Chimpanzees

The Animal Legal Defense Fund submitted comments urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to extend endangered status to captive chimpanzees, along with all of the meaningful protections such a listing entails.

Complaints Filed After Tyson Foods Undercover Investigation

Following the release of an Animal Legal Defense Fund undercover investigation inside a Tyson Foods, Inc. slaughter plant, we then submitted complaints about Tyson’s illegal practices to three federal agencies.

Justice for Cecil the Lion

In 2015, the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a complaint with the Minnesota Board of Dentistry seeking investigation of Walter James Palmer, the dentist who admitted to killing and butchering Cecil the lion.

Urging Enforcement of Animal Protection Laws at Primate Product

The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a complaint with Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation against the Florida primate breeding facility Primate Product.

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