Animal Advocacy — Live from Hawaii

David Cassuto

I’ve spent the last 5 days in Hawaii at the IUCN World Conservation Congress, the quadrennial gathering of environmental leaders from all over the world. The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) recently applied for membership in IUCN and was denied.  I have been lobbying for support for ALDF’s appeal from that denial.  It’s a bizarre world where organizations like Safari Club International — which advocates trophy hunting as a form of conservation — is granted membership where ALDF, an organization that actively works to protect animals both in and out of the wild, is denied.

So far the support has been very gratifying; many IUCN member organizations have stepped forward to support the appeal.  However, we remain a few signatures short of Continue reading

Registration Now Open for Animal Welfare Act at 50 Conference at Harvard Law School

The Animal Law & Policy Program (ALPP) at Harvard Law School is pleased to announce that registration is now open for The Animal Welfare Act at Fifty.  The AWA was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1966. The most comprehensive federal animal protection law, the AWA regulates more than one million animals at more than 15,000 locations across the United States. To mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Act, this conference, to be held December 2-3, will convene scholars, government officials, representatives from non-governmental organizations, and others to assess the first fifty years of the AWA and consider recommendations for the future.

Space is limited, so please make sure to register early to ensure your spot. Registration includes plant-based meals.


AWA 50 image

For a list of presenters and co-sponsors, please see the ALPP website conference page.

USDA facilitates animal suffering at Cricket Hollow Zoo

Delcianna J. Winders, Academic Fellow, Animal Law & Policy Program, Harvard Law School

This piece originally appeared in the Des Moines Register

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has again renewed the license that chronic animal welfare violator Cricket Hollow Zoo, in Manchester, needs to operate. The agency renewed this license despite recently documenting numerous violations and, indeed, documenting nearly 100 violations over the past three years. The agency renewed this license just months after a judge held that Cricket Hollow was likely to cause serious death or injury to animals. The agency renewed this license despite a pending enforcement action. The agency is complicit in Cricket Hollow’s abuse and neglect of dozens of animals.

CHZ primate
©Tracey Kuehl

To understand the conditions at Cricket Hollow that the Department of Agriculture allows to continue by its re-licensing, consider the following violations, documented by the agency on one day:

  • Various species were held with no ventilation and “a strong, foul odor of fecal waste and ammonia”;
  • No plan existed to address the distress of a baboon who paced incessantly and “repeatedly tossed his head back,” both “abnormal behaviors” indicative of distress;
  • Multiple animal enclosures “were severely muddy with large areas of standing water,” forcing numerous to stand in water and/or thick mud, some of whom had “mud/wet fur extending up the entire length of their legs”;
  • Numerous animals were confined with excessive flies and built-up waste.

Automatic license renewals also endanger humans. Without licenses, facilities couldn’t exhibit animals, and many of the violations put the public at risk. Cricket Hollow has repeatedly been cited for violations related to public endangerment, including holding dangerous animals like lions, bears and baboons in structurally unsound cages that could allow escape. One of Cricket Hollow’s owners was flown to a hospital after being attacked by a tiger and suffering lacerations to his head and torso.

Years ago, the Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General flagged automatic license renewal as a serious problem causing increased animal suffering and undermining the Animal Welfare Act’s purposes. In response to the Inspector General’s plea that it reform its licensing practices, the agency claimed that it was legally required to automatically renew licenses.

Developments in the law leave no question that the Department of Agriculture is not required to automatically renew licenses, and that it can condition renewal on compliance. Numerous federal courts have held that the Animal Welfare Act can be read to require compliance with the law before renewal.

Still, the agency clings to an outmoded model of licensing. While many agencies have adopted efficient, informal procedures for licensing, the Department of Agriculture continues to give full, trial-type hearings for every licensing and other Animal Welfare Act decision. This slow, antiquated approach wastes resources and results in serious delays that prolong animal suffering.

In August the Animal Welfare Act will turn 50, and it’s past time for the agency to heed calls to stop facilitating violations of the law and animal suffering through automatic license renewal.

Animal Law Clinic at Michigan State

David Cassuto

From the email:

Animal Welfare Clinic

(for release 7 July, 2016)

 Michigan State University College of Law invites applications for the Director position in its newly created Animal Welfare Clinic.

 MSU’s Animal Welfare Clinic will provide opportunities for students to learn the practice of law in a well-supervised and academically rigorous program.  The direct representation of clients is the core of the students’ experience in the clinic, and the clinic seeks to maintain a diverse and challenging docket.  With a core focus on animal law content, the clinic will select cases with attention to pedagogical concerns, community need, and the need to provide students with opportunities to engage as attorneys in a variety of contexts. This clinic will service individual clients with a variety of individual animal legal issues as well as clients who raise public policy questions about the use of animals in our society. The Clinic will seek out cases which will use the courts to enhance the welfare of animals beyond present practices. The Director will be expected to be an active member of a major University with a diverse set of players with animal related interests. Additionally, it is expected that the individual will coordinate with national organizations and seek to provide leadership on a national level.

For all aspects of the Clinic, the Clinical Professor will work in coordination with Animal Law Program of the College, directed by Professor David Favre and the Associate Dean for Experiential Education, David Thronson, who will help create the program of the clinic.  The Clinic Director will receive an annual salary commensurate with their experience, together with generous benefits. This will be a clinical track appointment starting with the title of Assistant Clinical Professor.  Continue reading

Seaquarium Still Confines Lolita: Double Standard Created for Endangered Animals

Delcianna J. Winders, Academic Fellow, Animal Law & Policy Program, Harvard Law School

This piece originally appeared in the Sun Sentinel.

A Miami judge recently denied relief to Lolita, the sole orca at the Seaquarium, by creating out of whole cloth a double standard for endangered animals like Lolita who are held in captivity. As a result, Lolita will remain in the smallest orca tank in North America without the company of a single other orca.

© Orca Network

The Endangered Species Act makes it illegal to harm, harass or wound Lolita. This broad ban includes a prohibition on significantly disrupting normal behavior patterns. Congress and the Supreme Court have stressed that it should be interpreted as broadly as possible, even to extend to seemingly harmless activities like bird watching if they might disturb the protected species.

It is beyond dispute that the Seaquarium’s confinement of Lolita disrupts her normal behavior patterns.

Orcas are highly social animals who stay with their mothers for life. Lolita was ripped from her family as a baby.

Puget Sound orca capture ©Terrell C. Newby, Ph.D.©Terrell C. Newby, Ph.D.

She hasn’t seen another orca since 1980, when her companion died after ramming his head into the tank, believed by some to be an act of suicide.

Still, Lolita reportedly continues to use vocalizations known only to her pod. When played a recording of her pod’s calls, she responded and returned the calls.

Wild orcas dive hundreds of feet and travel up to 100 miles every day. The Seaquarium confines Lolita, who is 20 feet long, to a tank that is just 20 feet at its deepest and 80 feet Continue reading

Santa Cruz Biotech fine too little, too late

Delcianna J. Winders, Academic Fellow, Animal Law & Policy Program, Harvard Law School

This piece originally appeared in the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently levied the largest fine in the history of the Animal Welfare Act, which will turn 50 this summer. In an unprecedented settlement agreement, Santa Cruz Biotechnology agreed to $3.5 million in penalties and to surrender its Animal Welfare Act license.

Animal protection groups have lauded the settlement, and, to be sure, getting this chronic animal welfare violator out of the business is huge. But it is also too little, too late.

While $3.5 million is nothing to scoff at, it is less than 1 percent of the more than $20 billion in potential fines Santa Cruz Biotech faced. And the Department of Agriculture made itself complicit in untold animal suffering when, year after year, it renewed the company’s Animal Welfare Act license despite knowing of chronic egregious violations.

As one of the world’s largest suppliers of antibodies — an industry valued at more than $80 billion — Santa Cruz Biotech is big business. The company has profited immensely from the suffering it has illegally inflicted on animals including routinely failing to provide minimally sufficient veterinary care to sick and injured animals. Continue reading

Will new tiger protections go far enough?

Delcianna J. Winders, Academic Fellow, Animal Law & Policy Program, Harvard Law School

[This piece originally appeared in the Houston Chronicle.]


With more tigers in American backyards, basements and bathrooms than the wild, it’s worth pausing on Endangered Species Day to consider whether new federal protections for tigers are enough.

On May 6, just days after a tiger that had apparently been used for photo-ops in Florida was found roaming the streets of Conroe following last month’s floods, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service closed a loophole in its Endangered Species Act regulations. After nearly two decades of looking the other way while hundreds of captive tigers are trafficked in the United States every year, the agency began treating tigers the same as other endangered wildlife.

But the agency’s permitting policies may critically limit the impact of this change.

To protect imperiled species like tigers, the Endangered Species Act prohibits a host of activities, including importing, exporting, selling, killing, harming, harassing and wounding protected wildlife, whether captive or wild. Continue reading