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.

 

 

 

 

Voiceless Grants for 2014

David Cassuto

From the email:

Do you have a project that will help animals but need a hand to get started? Applications for the 2014 Voiceless Grants Program are now open.

Now in its eleventh year, the Grants Program has awarded a combined total of almost $1.4 million in funding to universities, local councils, and non-profit organisations for projects with a focus on improving the lives of animals in Australia. You can take a look at all of our past projects including major national campaigns, ground-breaking research reports and funding for animal sanctuaries.

Voiceless is once again looking for projects that challenge institutionalised cruelty to animals, with a view to making animal protection the next great social justice movement. Voiceless will consider applications for projects which fall into one of the following categories:

  • Factory farming;
  • The commercial kangaroo industry; or
  • Building animal protection as a social justice movement.

In addition, all projects must be relevant to animals in Australia and either change attitudes or build awareness about animal suffering, encourage the public to take action for animals in their personal lives, or work to modify or create new laws or policies to further animal protection in Australia.  

Not sure if your project fits the criteria? Please read the ‘Grant Applications that will not be considered’ section on our website, before preparing your submission.

Applications for the 2014 Voiceless Grants Program can be submitted on our website and are due by 5:00pm Tuesday 1 July.  

For more information about the application process, visit the Voiceless website or contact our Administrator and Web Officer, Zoe Robertson. 

Looking forward to receiving your application,

The Voiceless team

 

 

Global Animal Law Conference in Barcelona, Spain

David Cassuto

Pardon the partial self-interest, but the below-mentioned conference (at which I will be speaking) has all the makings of a faboo event.  I spoke at the First Global Animal Law Conference back in 2002 (I believe) and it was great.  The field has grown enormously in the intervening decade and this conference reflects that growth.

The 2nd Global Animal Law Conference will be held in Barcelona, Spain on July 10-11, 2014. Our goal is to bring together some the best legal minds from around the world to discuss the many and varied animal law issues and challenges that so many of us face.

Over the two-day Conference we expect to have more than 25 speakers from over 15 countries, most of whom are internationally known law professors who have taught and written on animal issues. The Conference is limited to 180 attendees, and will be conducted entirely in in English. 

The history of the 1st Global Conference, ten years ago, suggests that this will be an important event for all attendees who seek to expand their own network of personal connections, develop global strategies to improve animal welfare and increase their understanding of our diverse cultures and legal systems around the world. 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

Merck Pledges to End Chimpanzee Testing

 

Seth Victor

 

Taking further steps in the right direction, Merck, one of the largest drug producers in the world, announced last month that it is ending research on chimpanzees. Kathleen Conlee, vice president of animal research issues for The HSUS said: “Merck’s new biomedical research policy will save chimpanzees from unnecessary and painful experiments. Merck’s decision, and that of several other pharmaceutical companies, sends a strong message that private industry is moving away from chimpanzee research as the government has.”

 

Merck has made this commitment while simultaneously stating, “The company’s mission is to discover, develop, manufacture and market innovative medicines and vaccines that treat and prevent illness. Animal research is indispensable to this mission.” While that quotation ominously suggests that other animals will continue to be a part of the company’s research, the more hopeful interpretation is that while Merck relies on animal testing under FDA regulations for its drugs and other products, it joins other pharmaceutical companies recognizing that even though chimps might be valuable to this research, their welfare is more important, and other ways to test the products should be utilized.

 

 

 

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