Animal Advocacy on the East Coast: the Mid-Atlantic Lyceum and the Mid-Atlantic Journal on Law and Public Policy

Jen Grunewald

The Mid-Atlantic Lyceum was started in 2011 in order to address issues in neglected fields of law, with a focus on animal law. The Lyceum also addresses disability issues specifically, issues affecting disabled individuals and service animals in general and in daily life. In MAJLPPlate October the Lyceum will announce a series of animal law forums that will take place throughout 2015. For example, the Lyceum hopes to launch a forum focusing on promoting health for both domestic animals and their human companions. The Lyceum is also currently in the process of setting up a Yelp-like review system that will be named Paws and Claws which will track access of places of public accommodations for the disabled and their service animals.  Continue reading

When Can an Animal be Seized as Evidence?

horses in pasture

Seth Victor

A provocative case came out of the Oregon Supreme Court two weeks ago addressing a warrantless seizure of a horse that was used to convict the defendants of animal abuse. As Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) reports, in the consolidated cases of State v. Fessenden and State v. Dicke, the court held that an officer was acting in accordance with the exceptions to the warrant requirements when he observed a starving horse on defendants’ property and took the horse to a veterinarian for emergency medical attention. The defendants were later charged with animal abuse, but they contended that the seizure of the horse was in violation of their right to privacy, and as it was a warrantless seizure, the evidence (the horse) had to be suppressed.

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On Eating Your Pets

Seth Victor

dog sandwich

An article caught my eye this morning about a man in New Mexico who was charged with a felony for extreme cruelty against a dog. The man allegedly stabbed his girlfriend’s dog in the heart, and then marinated the remains of the animal in preparation to cook it. While animal cruelty is a crime in New Mexico, eating dogs or cats is not, and if the defendant is successful in showing he did not act cruelly, there is no consequence for killing a companion animal for food.

These types of cases crop up every once in a while, often accompanied by outrage from some segments of the population over the wanton nature of the act. As always, since the law codifies our social voice, some states have put laws in place to discourage this kind of behavior. In New York, for example, one may not ” slaughter or butcher domesticated dog or domesticated cat  to create food, meat or meat products for human or animal consumption.”

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5th Circuit Upholds Ban on Crush Videos

Seth Victor

Four years ago the US Supreme Court overruled Congress’s attempt to regulate “crush videos,” stating that the law was an impermissible, over-broad regulation of free speech. For more analysis of the decision, see here. Though the decision was distressing, it did not herald an end of attempts to regulate that particular form of animal cruelty; Congress quickly passed an amended version of the law, one that has yet to be tested before the Supreme Court.

Last week the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated criminal charges in the case of US v. Richards for video of animals being tortured to death by a suggestively dressed woman, holding that images of animals killed for sexual gratification are not protected forms of speech, and are in fact “obscene.” Obscenity is the key to the law; obscene speech does not have the same protections as common speech, and can be regulated. Additionally, the 5th Circuit rejected an argument that the law is unconstitutional because it unfairly targets a narrow type of obscenity (here, animal cruelty), holding that particular categories of obscenity may be targeted based on their socially harmful secondary effects.

This is the first legal test of the amended law, and animal advocates have to be happy with the direction the case took at the appellate level. The court held that the law does serve a “significant interest” of preventing violence against animals, and is “reasonably tailored” to meet that interest. The 2010 version does not apply to the slaughter of animals for food, hunting, or agricultural husbandry practices, which helped it survive the “over-broad” challenge. If the Supreme Court ends up granting certiorari (it’s unclear at this point if the defendants will push it that far), it will be very interesting to see how the 5th Circuit decision holds up against US v. Stevens.

 

 

 

 

Someone else’s trash: Rez dogs saved; rez dogs lost

Kathleen Stachowski   Other Nations

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Dumpster pups reunite; M. Greener photo, Bozeman Daily Chronicle

From tragic to jubilant in eight short words: “Puppies left to die in garbage bin reunited.” The headline pulls you into the story–you already know it ends well–but still, you have to confront the fact that someone callously trashed a box of 10 newborns during a frigid Montana winter. Instead of freezing to death, the babies–some had not yet opened their eyes–were rescued by RezQ Dogs (websiteFacebook), a volunteer rescue operation “committed to helping the unwanted and abandoned dogs from the Fort Belknap and Rocky Boy Indian reservations” in north-central Montana. Tiny Tails K-9 Rescue (websiteFacebook) stepped in to help, and the rest is happy history.  Continue reading

The ‘Blackfish Effect’ at Work: Freedom for Orcas from SeaWorld San Diego?

Spencer Lo

Blackfish, an eye-opening documentary about the devastating consequences of keeping orcas in captivity, premiered a little more than a year ago, and since then, the remarkable outrage and debate it inspired has created waves of black lash against SeaWorld, from visible protests of the institution to successful pressures that resulted in embarrassing cancellations of scheduled musical performances. The ‘Blackfish Effect,’ with its growing momentum, will only continue. But how far will it go, and is real, tangible change for captive orcas achievable in the near future? Maybe yes—there is certainly good reason to hope. Continue reading

Can California regulate egg production under the Commerce Clause?

New standard for chickens

New standard for chickens

Seth Victor

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has filed a lawsuit in the Eastern District Court of California, asking the federal court to overturn a 2010 California law requiring the same standards for in-state chickens be applied to out-of-state chickens. In 2008, California passed Proposition 2, a ballot measure that increased the standards for egg-layers, providing that such chickens must have enough space to spread their wings without touching another chicken, and be able to stand up and lay down. Animal producers in California, however, complained that because they couldn’t stuff as many birds into the same space, they are at an economic disadvantage when competing with out-of-state producers selling in California. In response the state legislature passed a law requiring that all eggs sold in California be held to the same standards required under Proposition 2. The law will take effect in 2015. While California maintains that the additional law was enacted for health safety given the atrocious conditions of battery cages, Missouri counters that the law is an unlawful attempt to regulate conduct outside of California’s boarders, and an impermissible protection against out-of-state competition, both of which are in violation of the Commerce Clause. Continue reading

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