The New York State’s new bill: end of pet sale for good?

Chloe Kim

On February 3, 2020, the New York State Senate’s Domestic Animal Welfare Committee approved the bill (S.4234/A.6298) that has been introduced by Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal. The bill would prohibit retail pet stores and commercial pet shops from selling any dog, cat, or rabbit. It then also would prevent retail pet stores from buying dog, cat, or rabbit from a commercial puppy mill or pet breeders. To this date, California (2017) and Maryland (2018) are only two states that have enacted similar bills. If this bill passes, it will make New York the third state confirming its position against the puppy mill pipeline.

Cruel and inhumane conditions of puppy mills are known to some, but not widely and publicly enough to stop them from continuously exploiting puppies on demand. Commercial dog breeders are not afraid to treating and placing breeding dogs as profitable as possible, which include tiny overcrowded cages, unsanitary and dangerous facilities, little to none veterinary care, and merciless separation between mothers and babies and cage mates. The breeding dogs spend their entire lives in confinement, and they are bred at every possible opportunity, sometimes even when they are sick and exhausted, all for the profit. The puppies are then sold to pet brokers and transported to pet shops and retail stores for sale. These puppy mills, brokers, dealers, transporters, and retail shops complete the puppy mill pipeline, and individual customers who purchase the puppies at retail stores, whether they know or not, fuel the puppy mill pipeline to continue in business. This pet mill pipeline is not just limited to dogs. Daunting realities also exist for cats, as found in kitten mills, where their conditions are no better than those of puppy mills – if not worse. The kittens are placed in crowded wire cages to reduce labor cost for waste clean-up, with almost no veterinary care, and adult cats are repetitively bred until they are too sick to produce; once the breeding cats reach that point of sickness, we do not want to know what happens to them next. The new bill would deter this pipeline operation by prohibiting the selling and buying process between puppy (kitten) mills and retail stores.

Despite tremendous work of organizations, activists, scholars, and legislators to stop the pet mill operation, the results have been shown on only two states so far: California and Maryland. The federal government has also tried to regulate puppy mills but failed to do so successfully. It has been reported that the standard for breeder licenses is inadequate; enforcement power is weak, and penalties are light.

It should also be noted that the general target (including the new bill) of the pet mill bans so far only focuses on the sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits. Although we are generally aware of dogs, cats, and rabbits being somewhat the most popular demands at retail pet stores, we also know that retail pet stores also sell so many other species, which include but not limited to birds, hamsters, ferrets, fish, and turtles; the list goes on. No laws are regulating a sale of other animals, nor are there any laws at least ensuring their condition at retail pet stores. No law yet cares about whether they are well fed and watered. The New York State’s new bill also does not mention anything else about the sale and purchase of pets other than dogs, cats, and rabbits. Retail pet stores could continuously sell and purchase hamsters, birds, gerbils, fish, and frogs, as many as they want, regardless of where and how these animals are bred and treated before they are sold to the customers. There is nothing that can stop retail pet stores to even operate hamster mills on their own, no matter how unethically and inhumanely they do so – as long as they do not buy or sell dogs, cats, and rabbits from commercial breeders and pet mills. How ethical and humane is that? We may rejoice New York’s great news on this bill. It will shut down, or lead to shut down, lots of puppy and kitten mill pipeline in New York pet sale market. It will also encourage retail pet stores to connect with local animal rescue organizations and animal adoption shelters that could help to guide the public towards adopting their companions from shelters, rather than purchasing them. However, the efforts should not stop there. New York is only the third state to ban on retail puppy sale (only if the bill passes), and we have lots of other animals that are still popular in demand without any regulation to ensure their safety. The new bill also does not ban an individual from purchasing dogs, cats, and rabbits from commercial breeders and mills directly. A small improvement should not blindfold us; the factories are still up and running unless we stop them all for good. 

Canadian beavers in Patagonia’s forests: environmental ethics and invasive species management

Andrea Galassi

According to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute, beavers, the largest rodents in North America, are “one of the few species that significantly modify their environment.” By erecting of watertight dams of sticks woven with reeds, branches and saplings, which are caulked with mud, they diminish the stream erosion and form slow-moving ponds. As we can imagine, these ponds serve as habitat for a wide range of small aquatic life and also provide water and food for much larger animals. However, in some parts of the world, beavers had generated a decrease in the biomass and the volume of the forests, especially those classified, as “protected forests” because of they are associated with watercourses, an impact that is difficult to overcome in a natural way. Such is the case of Patagonian forests in Argentina and Chile.

beaver overpopulation — Tierra del Fuego

Going back in history, in 1946 10 pairs of beavers (Castor Canadensis) were brought from Manitoba to the Argentinian archipelago of Tierra del Fuego in an attempt to bring the fur industry to the area. But what Argentina´s military government ignored was the fact that beavers had no natural predators— like wolves, lynx, or coyotes— in the area in contrast to North America, which is home to bears and wolves. Thus the population swelled over the last 70 years, causing damage to thousands of old-growth trees –like Nothofagus or southern beeches forests- and peat bogs. In addition, the species has a serious impact on the ecosystem services of the turbines, which also have a specific role in basin regulation, in sustaining biodiversity and for their global contribution to carbon sequestration. Moreover, beaver dams –some of which I´ve actually witnessed myself when a recent visit to “Bahia Lapataia”, Tierra del Fuego- are so dominate that researchers can identify them in satellites images.

It was not until the 1990s that the governments of Argentina and Chile began to realize the magnitude of their beaver problem. Even though they tried to encourage recreational and commercial beaver hunting, trained hundreds of locals to trap encouraged restaurants to serve beaver-meat recipes and put a bounty on each beaver they could not reverse the damage because of low fur prices and hunting difficulties. Moreover, according to Alejandro Valenzuela -conservation coordinator for Argentina’s Southern Patagonia National Parks- the program caused more ecological damage than it saved: since beavers are territorial, the movement of a beaver colony from a pond, will allow new beavers will move in, but they won’t use the old dam. Instead, they will build a new dam, felling more trees and creating a larger pond in the process.

After several discussions, in 2008 Argentinian government –in cooperation with the Republic of Chile – began a 10-year mission to exterminate 100,000 beavers with traps and training hunters to eventually eradicate the species. Through the Secretary of Environment and Sustainable Development, the National Government established a Pilot Program in order to provide governance of invasive alien species. In 2019, preliminary results from a pilot project in Esmeralda-Lasifashaj region, which ran from October 2016 to January 2017 and from March to May 2017, were released. The studies show that “eradication was not achieved using the methods and efforts in the first part of the pilot study” [highlighting] “the need for more effort or the application of different techniques or trapping strategies. For example, daily checking of traps may cause the animals to be cautious so, the next step in the Programme will involve exploring alternative trapping methods to reduce disturbance”.

Consequently, at this moment all the efforts are centralized in the eradication and the fact that Argentina and Chile will also have to figure out how to restore the forests that have already been damaged by the beavers. This will be a next step. However, as an Animal Law student there are ethical questions for and against specific actions about the eradication of beavers as non-native specie from Patagonia that necessarily arise here. For instance, are beavers as individual sentient animals opposite to the value (at the species level) of plants and trees in Patagonia, and its ecosystems as well? Furthermore, is killing for conservation justified in order to eradicate invasive species?

Conservation Biology is “a multidisciplinary science that has developed to address the loss of biological diversity.” Its two central goals are “to evaluate human impacts on biological diversity and to develop practical approaches to prevent the extinction of species”. In other words, there is an inherent idea that CB is conformed by both value judgments and ethical decisions. Moreover, in the last few years Ethics and Animal Welfare have been presented an optional and newly born approach: the Compassionate Conservation Approach which aims to safeguard Earth’s biological diversity while retaining a commitment to treating individuals “with respect and concern for their well-being.” Even though there are currently two sides – those who consider killing to be unacceptable in any situation; and those who think it might be acceptable when there’s no other solution- by embracing animal ethics, the Compassionate Conservation Approach offers an interesting viewpoint by bringing the practices and sciences of animal welfare and conservation biology closer together and by envisioning the application of specific ethical arguments to improve the status quo of beavers versus ecosystem in Patagonia. The application of environmental ethics to political decisions can be crucial for understanding and settling our responsibility towards the multiple problems that currently affect our planet.

What’s going on with feral cats?

Chloe Kim

It is estimated that about 68 percent of U.S. households live with animal (non-human) companions, and there are approximately 94 million pet cats in the U.S. On the other hand, the number of feral cats in the U.S. is estimated as many as 160 million. Although this number is only an estimate, it still suggests that there are almost the same or a greater number of cats living without owners than pet cats who are (hopefully) well-fed and waters by their human companions. 

Feral cats are often used to mean stray cats and vice versa. Under some circumstances, they can mean the same thing. However, they are not entirely the same. Generally, a stray cat is a cat who was once domesticated, then was lost or abandoned and strayed from their home. A feral cat is a cat who was never domesticated or whose interaction/socialization with a human was lost. When a cat is born in a wild state, it is more likely that a cat would become (or remain) a feral cat. Sometimes, when a stray cat is left in the wild too long that his/her interaction with a human dwindles, he/she can become a feral cat. Either way, they both live in our communities, being exposed to a harsh and dangerous environment.

When one finds an unknown cat who seems to belong to no one, there are many things one can do: trying to find the owner first, making sure the cat does not look sick or in dangerous state, taking the cat in for scanning for a microchip and TNR (trap-neuter-return), or calling a local animal rescue center. One simple, easy, and very effective way to help the cat would be feeding and providing fresh water for the cat, and the legal consequences of giving hands for the cat may differ by states. There are only thirteen states that have laws addressing feral cats. In New York State, feral cats are considered as companions rather than as wildlife, and you can freely feed feral cats without violating any law. In Virginia and Delaware, you may feed feral cats, but then specific responsibilities may come along with the action; you may be considered the owner or caregiver after feeding feral cats consecutively, which means that you may have to be responsible for complying specific regulations for providing adequate care for them. Some states, like Connecticut, where each town adopts its ordinance as to keeping and registering feral cats, may impose certain requirements on feral cat keepers such as vaccinating and sterilizing them. New Jersey maintains managed cat colonies where feral cats are cared for by groups of volunteers, and the managed cat colonies should have their cats checked by a vet for public safety purposes. Depending on where you feed and provide shelter for feral cats, you may freely enjoy doing so or be liable for providing necessary services for them, and in extreme cases, may become liable for damages done by feral cats you feed.

Feral cats under anti-cruelty laws also vary by state. In all 50 states and the District of Columbia, one can be charged with a criminal offense, from as light as a misdemeanor to as heavy as a felony, for intentional killing and injuring of a cat. Sometimes a definition of a cat includes a feral cat as well. However, it does not mean that those laws were written with a specific intent to protect feral cats because the laws are generally more focused on pets under personal ownership. In some states, instead, feral cats are expressly excluded from their well-deserved protection. For example, Wyoming treats stray cats as a predatory animal, and therefore, there is no protection for them under anti-cruelty law. In South Dakota, one can be criminally charged under anti-cruelty law by poisoning or killing a cat who actually has an owner; feral cats or stray cats where their owners are unknown – or doesn’t exist –, South Dakota’s anti-cruelty law can’t do much for them.

A number of feral cats are growing every year, and their overpopulation poses various issues in many communities. If they are not well fed and sheltered, they may roam for food in trash and areas where food wastes are, which may develop into public sanitary and safety issues. Recently, researchers raised concern for endangered birds in Hawaii as feral cats become the birds’ predators.

Although their nature now made them difficult to socialize with humans, most of the feral cats (if not themselves at least their parents or grandparents) were once someone’s companions, who deserved nutritious food, fresh water, and a safe home. Once they were lost and abandoned, we started treating them as strangers and, in some cases, as dangers. Without specific guidelines and regulations, most people can only rely on their own resources and private organizations at best to feed and take care of feral cats; it may be challenging to protect feral cats in every aspect of law. However, state and local governments may start addressing the issue of feral cats so that we could better take care of them with what we have. Most feral cats only live less than two years on his/her own, and it is way too shorter than ten to twenty years if they are with their human companions providing them love and care they need. We should at least be able to provide them a healthy life, no matter how short it is, while they are with us.

Chemically Castrate the Swamp

  Alexis Tomaino

Atrazine wreaks havoc on the sex lives of adult male frogs, emasculating three-quarters of them and turning one in 10 into female. The 75 percent that are chemically castrated are essentially “dead” because of their inability to reproduce in the wild. The 10 percent (or more) that turn from males into females – something not known to occur under natural conditions in amphibians – can successfully mate with male frogs but, because these females are genetically male, all their offspring are male. The impacts of atrazine are most pronounced in frogs because they have highly permeable skin that can easily absorb the chemical. Exposure to atrazine at levels as low as 0.1 parts per billion has been shown to affect the development of sex characteristics in frogs. 

            Based on the evidence that atrazine is an endocrine disruptor to amphibians, the EPA should ban the use of Atrazine.  First, frogs are vital to a healthy ecosystem and their disappearance can disturb an intricate food web with cascading effects felt throughout an entire ecosystem. As tadpoles, they eat algae, helping regulate blooms and reducing the chances of algal contamination. As adults, their consumption of insects helps control populations, including adult mosquitoes and their larvae that can transmit diseases including Dengue fever, Malaria, West Nile fever and Zika.  Frogs are also an important source of food for a variety of animals, including birds, fish, and snakes.  But more fundamentally, frogs have existed for nearly 300 million years and have a right to exist unmolested.  As frogs are currently threatened by disease, pollution, habitat loss, invasive species and climate change, their populations have declined dramatically since the 1950s, and it is believed more than 120 species have already become extinct since 1980s.  Failure of the EPA to take action to protect frogs from the harmful effects of atrazine is tantamount to ignoring its mission to “reduce environmental risks … based on the best available scientific information.”

            Instead the Trump EPA has loosened restrictions on atrazine following the tenure as EPA adviser of Jeff Sands, a former pesticide-industry lobbyist for Syngenta.  Sands’s presence at the EPA drew criticism when the EPA scaled back a $4.8 million fine levied against Syngenta during the Obama years for violating pesticide regulations that resulted in the sickening of farm workers in Hawaii. The Trump EPA settled this case for a tiny fraction of $150,000, though the EPA also ordered Syngenta to spend a minimum of $400,000 to conduct worker training on how to use pesticides. Although Sands has asserted he did not influence these EPA decisions, Sands’s connection to Syngenta muddies the water and is in line with other actions from Trump’s EPA, which has focused on reducing regulatory burdens on industry and easing enforcement actions while bringing industry insiders into the administration to the detriment of the flora and fauna it is charged to protect.  

            Sands’s employment was permitted because of an ethics waiver in which the White House allowed Sands to work on issues he dealt with in the private sector because of “his deep understanding of agricultural issues forged through his previous service with Congress, a trade association and a company.” The waiver allowed him to work on issues that could affect his former industry, the agricultural sector, at large. While the waiver request did not expressly ask that he be exempted from rules prohibiting him from being involved with any agency action that would specifically affect a former employer, there is no evidence of compliance with these rules.  And although Sands’s departure from EPA in 2018 (and has subsequent employment as an adviser for Rep. Ted Yoho (Fla.), a conservative Republican lawmaker who sits on the House Agriculture Committee)  predates the November 2019 atrazine policy change announcement, the swampy smell lingers around the EPA’s decision to sacrifice frogs and promote Syngenta’s business.

Border Walls & Climate Change

Alexis Tomaino

Scientists now estimate that “half of all life” is “on the move” in direct response to anthropogenic climate change.  Yet at the very moment when ecological corridors for animal migrations should be safeguarded and prospectively secured because of climate change, more nations are constructing international barriers as a national security tool to impede human migration. Walls erected along international boundaries in the name of national security have unintended but significant consequences for biodiversity: they reduce the area, quality, and connectivity of plant and animal habitats.  And they block the ability of species to migrate and relocate to more suitable habitats.

            Since 1945, the number of large-scale, transnational border walls has increased from seven to 77, most built for the sole purpose of blocking human migration. This is a global crisis: in Africa, a barrier between Somalia and Kenya, made of barbed wire, concrete, and posts is nearing completion and a 1,700-mile sand wall fortified and surrounded by millions of land mines was built by Morocco along disputed, ungoverned territory on its border with Western Sahara. In Asia, Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for an iron wall around the Xinjiang region. In Central America, Ecuador has erected concrete panels along the Peruvian border.  In Europe, a mile-long wall exists at Calais, France funded by the United Kingdom to prevent migrants from accessing the Channel Tunnel and the Baltic States are raising a fence along their eastern frontier. And, in North America, the United States President Donald Trump has pledged to construct a “great wall” (the “Trump Wall”) along the 1,933 mile-long southern border between the United States and Mexico (the “Border”)—and in the process bisect a continent—in response to what he called a national security threat of human migration. 

            Although the construction of Trump Wall has been debated for a variety of reasons including illegal diversion of funds earmarked by Congress to fund the wall, largely absent from such discussions is a meaningful analysis of the devastating impact of such a wall on species’ climate change adaptation.  The border wall not only divides communities where millions of people live, it also cuts through the habitats of more than 1,500 wildlife species, disrupting a fragile and unique web of life in the borderlands. Aside from the physical wall, construction vehicle disturbance as well as lighting and noise pollution will wreak havoc on wildlife and sensitive habitat. Two animals—the ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) and Sonoran pronghorn (Antilocapra americana sonoriensis)— help bring this abstract problem into focus.  What’s undeniable is that the 654 miles of walls and fences already along the Border have cut off, isolated, and reduced populations of these amazing animals. 

A cat with its mouth open

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            “Drive slowly. Ocelots” signs still pepper the campus of the University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley, located just twenty miles from the Border, harkening to the days when these small, spotted and striped felines roamed broadly throughout the Southwest.  But any actual sighting of ocelots now is a rarity.  Biologists estimate that fewer than 50 remain in the U.S.  Because of these small populations, the Trump Wall would, inter alia, weaken these species’ genetic health by blocking access to suitable mates in Mexico.  Populations with low genetic diversity are poorly suited to adapt to changing environmental conditions, shrinking habitats or new diseases.  Thus, without a concerted relocation plan, the ocelot would become extirpated in the U.S. because the Trump Wall result in the loss of connectivity with other ocelots.  

A herd of zebra standing on top of a dry grass field

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            Known as the “prairie ghost,” the Sonoran Pronghorn is a small antelope with a reddish-brown coat, white belly, and white and black face with shiny black horns.  These animals are the fastest land animal in North America. Only 400 Sonoran Pronghorn are estimated to remain in the wild with only 160 left in the United States.  In addition to weakening these species’ genetic health by blocking access to suitable mates in Mexico, Sonoran Pronghorn move nomadically in response to changing forage conditions and water availability as a result of sporadic rainfall and are uniquely susceptible to drought conditions that are expected to increase as a result of climate change.  Indeed, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommends in its 2015 Draft Recovery Plan for Sonoran Pronghorn that the ability to migrate to water sources be preserved.  Because they require large expanses of contiguous habitat to persist in the harsh desert environment, the Trump Wall would almost certainly result in the extinction of the Sonoran Pronghorn.

            The inherent conflict between the use of a Border wall as a “national security” tool to control human migration and the need to protect ecological migration corridors along the Border for species survival and ecosystem health in light of climate change must be resolved in favor of the animals.  Time is of the essence.  The Border is not yet completely walled-off and vital migration corridors still remain.  But to add insult to injury, many of these critical areas are on federal land which makes them the easiest to construct upon because the land is already under federal control.  For example, the Lower Rio Grande Valley includes protected areas home to a vast array of wildlife including endangered and threatened species with ranges not restricted to one country.  Indeed, the primary wildlife conservation strategy has been to link habitat patches that are isolated due to intense agriculture, urbanization, and security fencing, in order to create and maintain a more continuous wildlife corridor for the species that migrate and move among habitat areas. In south Texas alone, the federal government has spent over $80 million in taxpayer money to support piecemeal aggregation of the refuge which today exceeds 90,000 acres. These federal efforts to conserve the rich and diverse biology are imminently threatened by the proposed Border wall. And the eyes of the world are upon us.  The United States should cease construction of the Border Wall and commence a prioritization of animal migration corridors in light of climate change.  If we do not, we have no ability to speak out when others perpetuate the same mistake.

Denver Stops Bullying the Bully Breeds

Emma Campbell

Pit bulls were banned from Denver in 1989. There have been many legal challenges to the law and in 2004, the Colorado state legislature outlawed breed-specific bans. However, this only lasted about a year because the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that dog breeds were a local issue, and therefore the city had a right to ban pit bulls under their home rule authority.

Fast forward to 2020, Denver City Council passed a bill lifting the ban, replacing it with a registration system. Despite this glimmer of hope for the bully breeds the mayor vetoed the bill citing his uncertainty. The City Council had the opportunity to override that veto on February 24th. However, they were unable to get the votes.

When it comes to breed specific laws there is strong support and opposition from the public. There are outspoken members of the community on both sides, which can be seen in Denver as this law has been a topic of discussion. Two important questions to consider is why do these bans garner so much controversy and do they work?

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the United States, 800,000 of them receiving medical attention, half of them being children. So, dog bites can pose a serious health risk. Denver initially implemented the ban because of two very severe attacks, one resulting in the death of a young boy.

However, the issue is very complex and any dog can bite, regardless of its breed. There are many factors that determine a particular dog’s chance of injuring a person, including their individual history, behavior, size, number of dogs involved, and the vulnerability of the person bitten. Breed-specific bans try to simplify a complex social problem and in doing so these laws divert resources away from actually fixing the problem.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has highlighted several reasons why breed-specific bans and restrictions are not a responsible approach to dog bite prevention:

  • Breed-specific laws can be difficult to enforce because a dog’s breed cannot always be determined by how it appears. “Pit bulls” are the most frequent targets of breed-specific legislation and they are not even a breed.
  • Breed-specific legislation is discriminatory against responsible owners and their dogs.
  • Breed bans do not address the social issue of irresponsible pet ownership.
  • It is not possible to calculate a bite rate for a breed or to compare rates between breeds because the data reported is often unreliable. This is because:
    • The breed of a biting dog is often not known or is reported inaccurately.
    • The actual number of bites that occur in a community is not known, especially if they don’t result in serious injury.
    • The number of dogs of a particular breed or combination of breeds in a community is not known because it is rare for all dogs in a community to be licensed. For example, Denver City Council noted that approximately only 20% of dog owners have their dog registered with the town.
    • Statistics often do not consider multiple incidents caused by a single animal.
    • Breed popularity changes over time, making comparison of breed-specific bite rates unreliable.

The AVMA also highlights strategies for dog bite prevention:

  • Enforcement of generic, non-breed-specific dangerous dog laws, with an emphasis on chronically irresponsible owners.
  • Enforcement of animal control ordinances such as leash laws, by trained animal care and control officers.
  • Prohibition of dog fighting.
  • Encouraging neutering for dogs not intended for breeding.
  • School-based and adult education programs that teach pet selection strategies, pet care and responsibility, and bite prevention.

The AVMA is not alone. There is a long list of groups from varying points of view that voice concern over the implementation of breed specific bans, like the CDC, Humane Society, American Bar Association, State Farm Insurance, and the United States Department of Justice, just to name a few.

Denver is not alone, there are are various municipalities throughout the United States that have breed specific bans. Also, all military bases exclude pit bulls, rottweilers, doberman pinschers, chow chows, and wolf hybrids. There is no evidence that shows that these bans are successful. It is often argued by ban advocates that there is no evidence that it is not successful, and it is better to be safe than sorry. That may sound good, but the issue is that good dogs and responsible dog owners are punished because of an unwarranted fear. The evidence does show that the way people treat their animals has a direct correlation with how their animal behaves. Instead of worrying about the dog in your neighbor’s yard, you should worry about your neighbor.

“Furever” Home or Hospice? New FDA Regulation Approves Animal Abuse and Allows Labs to put the Abused up for Adoption

Giovanna DiFilippo

Humans have used animals for experimentation in biomedical research as far back as ancient Greco-Roman times. Classic philosophers, including the likes of Aristotle and Erasistratus, recorded their experiments on animals and their writings are some of the first records of animal testing in existence. There is no doubt that animal testing has been widely utilized by experimentalists in biomedical research. Such inquiries have helped humankind to advance many of the medical developments we use today. However, technology is rapidly expanding upon society’s biomedical research and it is no longer necessary for humans to experiment on animals. In fact, many biomedical companies and cosmetics companies that test on animals have been subjected to societal pressure to cease testing on animals. Just last week the Food and Drug Administration publicly announced that it will endorse a policy that allows laboratory animals to be adopted once they are no longer needed for experimental use. Many animal rights activists view this new policy as a victory for laboratory animals, but it only perpetuates the interests of the laboratories in experimenting on these animals.

            According to Cruelty Free International, testing on animals is defined as “any scientific experiment or test in which a live animal is forced to undergo something that is likely to cause them pain and suffering.” The animals are harmed deliberately and not for their own interests, but for the interests of furthering scientific inquiry for the overall benefit of society. Some experiments commonly performed on animals in laboratories include injecting animals with known toxic substances, exposing animals to radiation, performing surgery to purposefully remove vital organs and tissues, and forcing animals to inhale poisonous fumes. The most popular animals used to experiment on in laboratories are by far rats and mice. However, laboratories also use fish, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, farm animals, birds, cats, dogs and nonhuman primates.

            For years the Food and Drug Administration has defended animal testing on the basis that animal testing is essential for some medical devices where nonanimal testing would not be a viable option. However, biomedical technology has advanced enough to where a scientist can now reproduce human tissues and perform accurate experiments on that laboratory created human biological material. Yet the Food and Drug Administration maintains that animal testing reliably measures how much of a drug is absorbed into the blood stream, how a medical product is chemically broken down in the body, the toxicity of a product and how quickly that product is excreted from the body. These justifications do not take into consideration how nonhuman animals are imperfect specimens for predicting how such experiments would affect the human body.

            These laboratories obtain their animals from “class A” dealers and “class B” dealers. “Class A” dealers are those in the business of breeding animals exclusively for their use in these scientific experiments. The “class B” dealers are merely brokers who sell animals to these laboratories after acquiring them from animal shelters. Those animals who survive these abhorrent experiments are typically euthanized by the scientists that experiment on them. This new policy of the Food and Drug Administration to adopt “retired” lab animals as pets is not a new concept. Other agencies, such as the National Institute of Health and the Department of Veteran Affairs, have also supported similar policies of their own encouraging the adoption of retired laboratory dogs. No federal legislation or policy currently exists surrounding this issue.

            Many animal rights activists are celebrating the Food and Drug Administration’s new policy supporting the adoption of laboratory animals after they are no longer needed for experimental use. However, no substantial change was seen when the other agencies, such as the NIH and VA, adopted similar policies. Animals are still going to be tortured relentlessly by scientists in the name of scientific discovery and biomedical research. Animal advocates should not celebrate the recognition that these animals need homes only at the end of their experimental use. Instead, animal advocates should increase their focus on preventing the use of animals for experimental testing in the laboratories. By supporting these weak policies, animal advocates are communicating to the agencies and public that it is permissible to treat the animals as scientific commodities and, only if they survive the horrors of the lab, are they worthy of the privilege of living a healthier life.

            Even the promise of a happy and healthy retirement for laboratory animals is reprehensible. For their entire lives these animals are kept in solitude and abhorrent conditions. Most have no idea what it feels like to live outside of a small wired cage. They have been forced to undergo surgeries, ingest toxic chemicals, inhale poisonous fumes and live in high anxiety environments. Most animals will be untrusting of humans and thus would not be suitable for a family. Some others will become very sick and not survive very long in their adoptive homes.  Pulling the survivors out of these labs is comparable to releasing a cancer patient from their hospital room to live out their final days in hospice; it’s a nicer alternative than dying alone in a tiny cage, but it does not remedy what the laboratories are enabled to do to these animals in the future. It instead allows for more animals to be subject to this torturous life, only to be granted a final few years, months or days in a loving home. Animal activists and advocates alike need to save their celebratory sentiment for a larger purpose and continue the fight for animal liberation from these laboratories that exist to solely torture these vulnerable souls.

Animal Mistreatment Causes Environmental Damage

Gabriela Tavarez

Pollution impacts animals just as much as it affects humans.  Human activity (factory farming, waste disposal, etc.) impacts wildlife’s habitat.  In addition, erratic and long-lasting wildfires in California have caused over a billion animals to die.  According to the National Audubon Society, even though pollution affects humans, it severely impacts birds since birds spend more time in the open air as opposed to humans.  Birds become vulnerable to catching diseases when they inhale the air.  Nonetheless, pollution affects aquatic animals when waste is disposed into waterways.  Specifically, water pollution infects the water, along with aquatic animals, which can ultimately be toxic for human consumption.

Furthermore, human activity such as factory farming lead to devastating environmental effects.  Factory farming focuses on increasing productivity and economic efficiency.  As a result, farmers are exempted from animal welfare regulation.  Such devastating effects include the deterioration of topsoil and water quality and quantity.  Meanwhile, factory animals such as pigs and cattle are confined to small spaces where they are prevented from roaming free.  Also, factory animals are forced to undergo unnatural diets.  For example, cattle are fed corn due to its low cost, in order for them to grow faster.  However, their stomachs were not designed to digest corn, so they are given antibiotics to prevent illnesses when they eat corn.  Also, factory farming releases carbon dioxide (greenhouse gases) into the atmosphere.  Particularly, livestock releases methane, which increases temperature. 

Additionally, the quality and quantity of water is dwindling as factory farming increases production.  Factory farming removes trees to create more space to raise livestock and removes other natural wildlife from their habitat.  Factory farms also demolish topsoil.  Humans rely on soil to provide nutrients for food, but factory farms dilute the soil since farmers clear the fields in order to grow crops.  Specifically, they clear fields to grow corn and soy to feed their cattle.  Many animal activists call for stricter regulations on factory farming to decrease production.  This can reduce pollution and its harmful effects on animals.  However, that is not without opposition.  Factory farmers call for minimal regulation since prohibition would lessen economic efficiency and increase the cost in meat production since grass-fed cattle is costly.  Nonetheless, people would be willing to eat grass-fed meat since it is a healthier option.  When an animal is in distress, it causes the meat to darken and becomes unsuitable for consumption.     

Factory animals are confined within lagoons where their waste can trickle into open water and affect aquatic animals.  Aquatic animals are not able to sustain these environmental changes.  The unfavorable tides and changes in water temperature expose them to new predators.  Humans also become vulnerable to diseases from drinking or swimming in the toxic water.  However, humans can choose not to swim or drink the water.  Humans can also change their habits to reduce environmental damage.  Nevertheless, aquatic animals do not have such privilege because they are forced to stay in the water.  The toxic chemicals also lead to an increase in nitrogen and phosphorus, which increases the growth of toxic algae.  Animals die from consuming toxic algae.  Factory farming demonstrates an endless cycle where one effect on a certain species can trickle down to other species.  Furthermore, high levels of mercury found in water causes behavioral and reproductive changes in aquatic animals.  It is important that humans take imperative steps to reduce the damage to wildlife.  For example, humans can stop littering on beaches, seas, lakes, rivers, etc.  When garbage is thrown into the water, it can entrap marine animals.  Most water-dwelling animals such as sea otters, become trapped in the debris and can drown from being trapped.  Water pollution even affects the soil, which humans need to grow crops for food. 

Pollution is caused by overpopulation.  Due to overpopulation, humans continue to consume resources that it forces the animal population to diminish at a rapid rate.  The human population is substantial that it exceeds the resources available to sustain it.  The environment cannot replenish itself before it is conquered by human consumption.  As the population increases, it leads to more factory farming, which increases food production and deforestation.  It also leads to waste thrown into waterways and causes an imbalance within the ecosystem.  When it comes to maximizing production and minimizing costs, the government seems to disregard the suffering of non-human species.  It is important that there are stricter government regulations that would reduce pollution.  That is why it is important that states have the freedom to regulate or prohibit certain conduct pertaining to animal welfare that the federal government disregards.       

Retail Pet Sales Ban (A Hope To End Puppy Mills)

Rebecca Powers

The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) gives the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to promulgate regulations for the sale, housing, and treatment of pets. “A puppy mill is a breeding operation that breeds dogs for profit, prioritizing financial gain over the health or well-being of the dogs.” The AWA does not limit the number of dogs that can be at one facility and does not require a minimum number of people to work there taking care of the dogs. Dogs can be stacked in small cages with wire flooring and be caged for 24 hours a day it’s entire life. Additionally, inspections are very limited and, once the initial license is given by the USDA, the facility may not be inspected again for 2-3 years.

I recently went to a large mall in Albany, New York. While there I passed by a pet store selling “purebred” and “designer” puppies. In the small store was a wall of glass and behind it a wall of small cages. They were stacked about four high and eight across, most about 2 feet by 2 feet. The puppies were pacing and barking or lying down shivering. I was surprised because I had heard of recent New York State legislation to ban the sale of puppies at retail stores, moving to use the space for rescue dogs and adoption. These dogs were obviously not from animal shelters.

            In the past few years pictures, videos, and more information has come out about the horrors of puppy mills. There is a system that has developed between puppy mills and pet stores. Basically all puppies in pet stores across the country are from these puppy mills. This is because the puppy mill and the pet store have put money ahead of humane, sanitary, quality care, and most Americans walking into a pet store in a mall have no idea about the conditions the dog was bred in. The pet store can say that they only sell from USDA approved breeders, and the average person may think that means a healthy, often checked environment. However, that is not the case as these facilities are rarely checked and the regulations about them are very minimal. Then it is simply a matter of money, some of the puppies can cost close to $1000. There are no real questions about the experience or ability of the buyer/future owner. Someone could literally walk in, point to a puppy behind a glass wall, swipe a card, and walk out with a new living being to take care of.

            Recently, California and Maryland have passed statewide bans on retail pet store sales. These are first of their kind at such a large scale, as almost 300 cities and counties have already enacted such bans. By limiting where those puppies can be sold it limits the demand on the supply side. These bans seek to end the “pipeline” from puppy mill to retail pet store. Legislation was introduced in New York in March 2019 that would add it to the growing list. The New York amendment would make the “sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits prohibited” at retail pet shops. However, it would allow for these pet shops to “showcase” animals for adoption by partnering with recognized shelters and organizations. It explicitly states that a store cannot use breeders or brokers, which would target puppy mills. It hopes to move retail pet stores away from being a for-profit business.

            A positive goal of these laws is that it should minimize the number of dogs euthanized at animal shelters. People go to pet stores to buy a puppy. There could be various reasons why someone might go to a pet store as opposed to a shelter. But regardless of the reason, if we can change it so that the puppies in the pet stores come from animal shelters, then we can save lives. There are plenty of puppies in shelters and numerous pure breed rescue organizations. If they are given the opportunity to bring the dogs to people, it could help raise money and awareness.             There is growing public awareness of both puppy mills and the New York legislation. It is time we end this inhumane pipeline of dogs. There are millions of adoptable pets out there waiting for a good home. Hopefully the public will get behind the amendment and call for state action on this issue.

How Backyard Breeders are Negating Pet Shop Bans

Elizabeth Burns

Just over a month ago, two pug babies were surrendered to The Pug Queen and Tiny Paws Pug Rescue. Sisters Bella and Sadie were only 3.5 months old, but both had tested positive for canine distemper. The virus begins by attacking the respiratory system before replicating and attacking the rest of the dog’s lymphatic system, gastrointestinal tract, and central nervous system. Canine distemper is usually fatal if contracted, and even if a dog survives the disease, it often has lasting nervous system damage. Sadly, despite all these rescues did to treat and care for these babies, both succumbed to the disease. Distemper, while incredibly deadly, is highly preventable with the distemper vaccination.

Photo courtesy of The Pug Queen (instagram: @thepugqueen)

The Pug Queen and other rescues in Southern California are all too familiar with situations like this. Most of the dogs that these rescues take in come from backyard breeders. Backyard breeders are generally different from puppy mills. Puppy mills are considered large-scale commercial facilities that breed as many puppies as possible to sell to vendors (i.e. pet stores). The dogs are often kept in deplorable conditions with little care. Backyard breeders share some similarities with puppy mills. These breeders are considered to be unethical, and they are often in the business solely for the money. They are usually inexperienced in dog breeding, and they take little consideration of their dogs’ needs, often providing minimal food, water, shelter, and veterinary care. Most backyard breeders also don’t take selective breeding or genetic issues into account. The result is sickly puppies often sold before they are supposed to be separated from the mother. However, backyard breeders are often attractive because they advertise “purebred” dogs.

Despite the purported benefits of owning a mutt, a lot of people are still drawn to purebred dogs. When getting a purebred people know what they are getting, i.e. there are breed standards for each recognized purebred that help inform a potential owner of health issues, temperament, or care requirements. Respectable, reliable breeders also know the history and health of the bloodline of their dogs and can inform potential owners of any issues to watch out for. Breeders also often guarantee the “quality” of their dogs and will even take “returns” of dogs that fail to meet health or other standards. There is also a sense of prestige and status that comes with owning a purebred dog. When buying a puppy from a breeder, the owner is given purebred paperwork that can be filed with the American Kennel Club (AKC).

Many people also choose to buy purebred puppies from pet stores. Before the plight of puppy mills became widely known, people often chose to buy puppies from pet shops. With campaigns against puppy mills, pet stores have tried to rebuild their reputations by showcasing the “breeders” they obtain their puppies from. Putting a face and name to the breeder often helps consumers feel better about buying from a pet store. Puppies still come with paperwork, and it is easy to find the breed you are looking for. There is also a misconception that pet store puppies are well-taken care of as opposed to buying from other sources. However, California, Maryland, and possibly New York have decided to ban the sale of puppies, kittens, and rabbits in pet stores, but pet stores can offer services and allow shelters to showcase adoptable animals. While this sounds like a great way to stop supporting puppy mills and encourage adopting a shelter animal, it also drives people to find other ways to get the specific dogs they desire.

Unfortunately, as with any product on the market, consumers look for the cheapest way to get what they want—maximize benefit at the lowest possible cost. Pet stores and good breeders charge a lot for their dogs, and these prices are not affordable for a lot of people. For example, a purebred French bulldog from a reputable breeder can average about $3,000 depending on the coloration. Why buy a $3,000 puppy when you can get a puppy of the same breed for $800? Backyard breeders are filling in a gap in the marketplace that allows buyers to get dogs at lower prices under the guise of a “family breeder.” People inherently feel better when they buy from a person breeding dogs in their home. The operation is not a puppy mill, and there is an expectation that small-time and hobby breeders take good care of their dogs. But, as The Pug Queen and other rescues know too well, the majority of the dogs they take in come from backyard breeders who neglect their dogs and only breed for profit.

The Major Gap in a New Bill in Congress to Rehome Research Animals

Cassie Jurenci

In May 2019, Representative Brendan Boyle (D-PA) introduced the Animal Freedom from Testing, Experiments, and Research Act of 2019 (the AFTER Act of 2019). If passed, the bill would require all federal departments, agencies, and instrumentalities that have laboratory or exhibiting animals to “facilitate the adoption or nonlaboratory placement of certain warm-blooded animals (e.g., dogs, cats, monkeys, guinea pigs, hamsters, and rabbits) with animal rescue organizations, animal sanctuaries, animal shelters, or individuals” who are no longer needed for research and are suitable for release. According to the US Humane Society, animals used in laboratory experiments who survive experimentation are typically euthanized at the end of the experiment, if not during. In a statement, Representative Boyle explained, “[f]or years, I’ve worked to end outdated government animal testing opposed by most Americans, and have been disturbed at how many animals are killed at the end of research even though there are individuals, rescues, and sanctuaries ready to take them in.” 

Regrettably, the AFTER Act does not extend the opportunity for rehoming following experimentation to the millions of birds, rats, or mice used in research every year.

According to the US Humane Society, rats and mice are the most-used animals in research yet, along with birds, they are not protected under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). In fact, “[o]nly about 1 percent of animals used in research in the United States are protected by this legislation” according to Marc Bekoff, professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado—Boulder and author of The Emotional Lives of Animals. In Emotional Lives, Bekoff explains how The Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 redefined “animal” to…exclude birds, rats, and mice, bred for research. In the absence of protections under the AWA and without statistics from the USDA on the use of mice and rats in research, ascertaining the number of individuals used in research is a challenge.

The Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress began the “monumental task” of estimating the number of these animals used in research and, in a report published in 2000, they determined that an estimated “85 percent of vertebrate animals used in research, education, and testing are mice and rats.” Compilers of the report contacted 100 of the 2,000 research organizations in its database, and of those organizations, the report found that between 250,000 and 1,000,000 rats, 400,000-2,000,000 mice, and 130,000-900,000 birds were registered with those facilities. Considering similar estimates by other organizations, excluding rats, mice, and birds from the AFTER Act means that tens of millions of animals are not eligible for rehoming after spending their lives as research subjects.

Excluding rats, mice, and birds from the AFTER Act also eliminates the opportunity for these animals to live the rich lives of which they are capable after their use in research. In Emotional Lives, Bekoff details numerous scientific observations showing the emotional and social natures of rats, mice, and birds. Bekoff explains how, “[r]ats show an increase in dopamine activity simply anticipating the opportunity to play” and have been shown to “chirp with joy.” He references brain chemistry studies that “support the idea that play is pleasurable and fun.” Bekoff goes on to say that “[r]ats who are tickled bond to the researchers and seek out tickles.”

Talking about mice, Bekoff describes a scientific study on empathy in which “adult mice were injected with acetic acid, causing them to writhe in pain…. Researchers discovered that mice who watch their peers in pain are more sensitive to it themselves and that an injected mouse writhed more if its partner was also writhing.” On sadness, Bekoff explains how mice who “are bullied or consistently dominated by other mice… [and] become withdrawn” can be successfully treated with human antidepressants. Finally, Bekoff writes about the ability of birds to display ranges of emotion from happiness to anger, highlighting researcher Irene Pepperberg’s studies of the famous African gray parrot, Alex.

Certainly, as animal researchers themselves must attest based on the results of their experiments, rats, mice, and birds are capable of emotional experiences. These animals deserve the same opportunities for adoption after research granted to other commonly used research animals.

According to Pew, a growing number of states have begun passing laws requiring research facilities to provide for the adoption of healthy cats and dogs following experimentation where possible. Federally, the National Institutes of Health, Food and Drug Administration, and Department of Veterans Affairs have policies relating to the adoption of certain laboratory animals no longer needed for research.

The AFTER Act is admirable in its endeavor to provide lab animals the opportunity to live the rest of their lives in caring homes and non-research facilities. However, it is deficient in scope by excluding the vast majority of animals used in research in the United States: rats, mice, and birds. The AFTER Act has remained in the House Agriculture Committee since its referral to that body upon its introduction. The bill should be amended to expand the opportunity for adoption to rats, mice, and birds.

NYC Foie Gras Ban

Amy Allen

          

n October 2019, the New York City Council voted to ban force-fed poultry products, like the culinary delicacy, foie gras, French for “fatty liver.” The ban begins in 2022, which gives establishments and the government a three years preparation period. The fines range between $500 and $2,000, depending on the severity of the violation. The ban does not allow any restaurant or food service establishment to “stor[e], maintain, sell, or offer to sell” any foie gras product. Generally, male Moulard ducks, a hybrid between Muscovy and Pekin, are used for foie gras in the United States. This new legislation brought fierce debate between animal rights groups and chefs who have also partnered with foie gras producers.

            The legislation was initially proposed by animal rights groups for the cruel and inhumane practices of force-fed poultry generally used called gavage. This practice involves force feeding live poultry a corn-based mixture, up to four pounds a day, that rapidly expands the poultry’s liver, sometimes so severely that the liver distends into the abdomen. The poultry’s liver can expand nearly 10 times its normal size. Often, the poultry is unable to walk from the distention and will pluck out its own feathers or attack other poultry due to the increased stress put onto its body. In France, gavage is required if a pâté is called foie gras.

            In France, a prominent group of animal activists, L214, tried to sue foie gras producers for animal welfare violations in 2013. The French activist released graphic videos of the conditions the animals are placed under and filed the first ever foie gras lawsuit. Even though the producer was cleared of all charges, several prominent French chefs vowed to stop using foie gras as part of their menu.

            However, other famous chefs continued to support the use of foie gras, such as Anthony Bourdain who famously commented that people were showing the worst aspects of the problem out of context to scare people and that the cultural history was the important aspect of the luxury item. Another prominent New York City restaurant owner, Ken Oringer, argued that city council members were fighting the wrong battle and factory farmed chickens were far worse than foie gras raise poultry. Oringer further agreed with Bourdain that animal rights activists were showing graphic videos to spark outrange that misrepresented the treatment of the animals. In the end, the city council found that force feeding animals was inhumane and a practice that had to be stopped in New York City.

            Several animal rights activist groups have supported the bill due to the cruelty the practice inflicts on the poultry. The groups point to the fact that foie gras is a purely luxury item for cuisine, but it puts poultry through intense and immense stress. A few days after New York City created the ban, Voters For Animal Rights filed law suit against D’Artagnan, Inc. and D’Artagnan, LLC, foie gras producers based in Union, New Jersey. The suit does not seek monetary damages, but injunctive relief against “deceptive marketing and advertising practices” that suggests their foie gras product do not harm animals.

            Hudson Valley Foie Gras, located about 100 miles north of New York City in Sullivan County, one of the largest force-fed poultry producers with over 400 employees, and its manager, Marcus Henley, continually defends the practice and say that the facility properly cares for the poultry. Hudson Valley Foie Gras is one of two businesses in Sullivan County that provide foie gras for most of the United States. Both Hudson Valley Foie Gras and La Belle, the other Sullivan County Foie Gras producer, sell nearly $38 million in foie gras annually and send around a third of their production to New York City. Hudson Valley Foie Gras has said that it will file a lawsuit against the city challenging the ban as unconstitutional. The ban will place a financial burden on the poorest county in New York state where most of the workers are Spanish-speaking immigrants, many of whom rely on the free housing provided by the farm.

The Enduring Battle Over America’s Wild Horses

Ben Pierce

There is a fight going on out west – a fight over how we should treat our wild horses.  On one side is the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”), an agency within the U.S. Department of Interior charged with administering the Wild-Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971.  This statute “declares that wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West,” and tasks BLM with managing and protecting wild free roaming horses “as components of the public lands.”  On the other side of the fight is arrayed a multitude of animal protection organizations, such as the Animal Welfare Institute and the American Wild Horse Campaign, that are highly critical of BLM’s treatment of wild horses.

Photo by Christine Mendoza

A recent pair of dueling pieces in the Salt Lake City Tribune shed light on this ongoing battle.  Last month, William Perry Pendley, deputy director for policy and programs for BLM, wrote that wild horses pose an “existential threat to our public lands.”  According to Pendley, when wild horse herds are “left Continue reading

Trump Administration Re-Authorizes Cruel Use of M-44 Cyanide Bombs

Tala DiBenedetto

Recently, the Trump Administration reauthorized the use of M-44 poison devices for use in wildlife culls.  These devices, also referred to as “cyanide bombs,” are planted in the wild and designed to lure in predators that threaten livestock with bait, then release a fatal dose of sodium cyanide, a highly toxic pesticide.  The devices are smeared with scented bait, which cause animals to bite on and pull them. This causes a capsule containing the sodium cyanide is then ejected into their mouth.  Deaths caused by the poisoning from these traps are agonizing. Use of M-44 devices gained some media attention when a fourteen-year-old boy named Canyon accidentally set off a device while walking his dog, injuring himself and killing his dog. After bending down to touch what looked like a garden sprinkler, the device exploded, shooting poison directly into the boys eyes, with the remainder blowing downwind towards his dog, Casey. Within a minute, Casey was “writhing with convulsions, a reddish foam emanating from his mouth. In front of Canyon, the yellow Lab made guttural sounds then went still.” Casey’s death is not an uncommon occurrence. An investigation uncovered that between 2000 and 2012, activation of these devices resulted in the deaths of 1,200 dogs. These cruel devices cast the same agonizing fate on countless wildlife across the country.

This program is carried out by Wildlife Services, a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Wildlife Services, founded in 1885, exists primarily for the benefit of the livestock industry, spending more than $80 million a year killing animals that are deemed a “nuisance” to humans. The agency uses of poisoned bait, neck snares, leghold traps (which are banned in 80 countries), aerial gunning, and cyanide traps to go after animals that threaten livestock grazing on public lands. Wildlife Services was responsible for the deaths of over 2.5 million animals in 2018.

Wildlife Services, along with its state counterpart agencies in Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming, have relied on the M-44s to kill animals that threaten livestock since the mid-1970s. These cyanide bombs kill thousands of animals every year, killing 6,579 in 2018 alone. These traps have been criticized not only for being cruel, but indiscriminate, fatally poisoning numerous non-target species, including federally endangered and threatened species.

M44 Dead Wolf or Coyote near POISON sign 2016-05813_Partial 11_Item 1(New Mexico) 12-scr.jpg
Corpse of a poisoned coyote

In 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a proposed interim decision reauthorizing the use of M-44 devices. The decision was met with thousands of public comments, almost entirely in opposition to reauthorization. As a result of the flood of public opposition, EPA withdrew its reauthorization application for further review.  Nevertheless, four months later the agency issued its decision to move forward with reauthorization with a few minor additional restrictions. Those restrictions include a 600-foot buffer around residences (unless there is written permission from the landowner), increasing the buffer from public pathways and roads, and one additional sign within 15 feet of a device. In addition to offering no protection to wildlife, the restrictions have been criticized as insufficient to adequately protect the public, pets, and vulnerable species.

Horse Racing: An Elitist Sport or Animal Abuse?

Erika-Marie Kissh

The life of a racehorse is one that even before its conception is planned out and greatly influenced by human beings. Their birth, life, and death, are unnatural and can be seen as out-and-out abuse in every stage of the horses’ life. The main reason why racehorses are forced to live such unnatural lives at the hands of humans is because horse-racing is an extremely lucrative “sport”. The International Federation of Horseracing Authorities estimates that prize money for races worldwide is approximately $3.5 billion dollars a year, and the global industry of horse-race betting makes approximately $116 billion dollars of revenue in a given year.

For thoroughbred racehorses, in particular, their conception and birth is planned out as meticulously as possible to ensure maximum race training time. Mares are forced to Continue reading

McDonald’s is for (Animal) Lovers

Samantha A. Mumola

It is no secret that the United States meat and dairy industries are harmful to animals, our health, and our planet.  Whether it is to slim down, become healthier, save animals’ lives, or reduce toxic waste, more people are adopting vegan and vegetarian diets every yearNo proof exists that humans must consume meat to live; to the contrary, it has been proven that those who live on plant-based diets are less likely to suffer from cancer, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, strokes, cardiovascular disease, and even Alzheimer’s disease.  Besides damaging one’s health, the meat industry also produces vast amounts of pollution and is one of the biggest causes of climate change.  This is all without mentioning the most heartbreaking truth about our society’s obsession with meat: it is an unnecessary waste of sentient animals’ lives.

Meat is especially harmful in the form that most United States citizens are receiving it.  Before a piece of flesh touches your plate, it has already been exposed to antibiotics, hormones, bacteria, ammonia, chlorine, fecal matter, and a host of other toxins that can Continue reading

PUBLIC CAMPAIGNS IN CHINA LEAD TO AN IVORY BAN: How an NBA player helped end the sale of ivory in China

Keisha Sapphire Holgate

Between 1979 to 1987,illegal poaching of African elephants to obtain their ivory tusks caused a decline of their population from 1.3 million to only 600,000 individuals. Currently, tens of thousands of elephants are killed each year for their ivory. Elephant ivory is aesthetically valued due to certain attributes such as the “durability, the ease with which it can be carved, and its absence of splintering [making it] uniquely suited for a variety of uses”. These properties have made ivory an indicator of social status, with it being used in musical instruments such as piano keys, billiard pool balls, utensils, jewelry, ornamental carvings and other worked ivory items. Many legal sales of ivory include these worked ivory products under the classification as an antique. “Ivory” is often lumped together with materials such as jade, ebony or amber, in terms of the intricate and valued carvings or jewelry they help make. China is the biggest consumer market for jewelry and ornamental products carved from ivory.

After an 1989 international treaty banned ivory, China chose to permit domestic trade, with a licensing system that permitted the import of ivory tusks that were from natural deaths or seized by authorities.  Ivory in the legal Chinese market is also from pre-CITES ivory and includes the 2008 CITES-supported sale that brought in 60,000 metric tons to Continue reading

We Need the KITTEN Act: USDA’s Directive Doesn’t Go Far Enough

Robert Gordon

Toxoplasma gondiiis a parasite that is believed to effect 40 million people in the United States. The U.S. government has been researching it for more than 35 years. It is generally caused by eating undercooked meat that has been contaminated. Most people infected with it will never know that they are hosting a parasite. However, infected humans with weakened immune systems, such as infants, those with autoimmune disorders and the elderly may develop a serious and sometimes fatal sickness known as toxoplasmosis.

One unusual trait about toxoplasma gondiiis that the only known definitive hosts for purposes of sexual reproduction are felines (domestic cats and their relatives). Thus, scientific research often involves cats. In fact, beginning in 1982, the United States Department of Agriculture has infected hundreds of kittens each year with parasite-infected meat to harvest toxoplasma gondiieggs. Some of the cats were even fed dog and cat meat obtained from overseas markets prompting activists to dub the research “kitten cannibalism.” The kittens were then euthanized. Since the program began an estimated Continue reading

A FIGHT FOR THE FETAL PIGS: PUTTING K-12 ANIMAL DISSECTIONS IN THE PAST

Amy O’Brien

We all remember that middle school biology class. The one where the teacher divided us up into pairs, instructed us to put on our safety goggles and plastic gloves, and emerged from the supply closet with bags of fetal pigs soaked in formaldehyde. At this point, some of us ran out of the room crying, while others enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to extract the organs from these lifeless creatures.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated or uncommon scene. In fact, estimates suggest that as many as 10 to 12 million animals are bred and harvested every year for classroom dissections. Recently, animal rights advocates and lawmakers have fought back against the school systems and the scientific community, seeking to change state laws and policies pertaining to classroom dissection.

In response to animal cruelty concerns, some states have enacted “student choice” policies, giving students the option to opt out of dissection in exchange for another educational project. California is one of those states. Under current California law, students with “moral objections” to animal dissection can participate in an “alternative Continue reading

So what’s stopping us from eating our Pets? Cats, dogs, Guinea Pig, and horses.

Katy Alvarado

Well, you wouldn’t eat a member of your family, would you? We build silent bonds with our pets such that they become to form a part of our family. The act of killing our beloved friends and companions that just happen to be of a different species feels so wrong that most would not even think about doing it, let alone consuming the meat. This is because we tend to draw a line between those animals we keep as pets and those animals we consider only as sources of food. The association between animals and food helps to swallow any guilt about killing the animal and makes it a more a necessary process by which we continue to survive. But pets are animals just the same as chickens, cows, and sheep. So setting aside this emotional bias that we have towards our pets, what is stopping us from eating cats, dogs, guinea pigs and horse? As it turns out, very little.

 

While killing your pet and then eating it sounds like first degree murder, the truth of the matter is that up until the end of 2018 if you found yourself in one of the 44 states that only required you to humanely kill your cat or dog, then there was nothing else stopping Continue reading

The World’s Lovely Giants: Elephants in Entertainment Begin to Receive Legal Protection Through State Initiatives

Caitlin Ens

Elephants used for entertainment purposes often suffer physically and psychologically due to poor living conditions and treatment. Entertainment elephants live half as long as those found in the wild: they experience obesity from being chained up all day, arthritis from walking on hard concrete surfaces, starvation, dehydration, and many other fatal conditions. Today, the general public is more informed than ever about the animal abuse that occurs in circuses. Consequently, public concern for circus elephants has increased dramatically over the past decade. Videos were released showing the cruel and abusive conditions that circus elephants endure. In 2017, Ringling Brothers (Ringling Bros.), one of the largest circus corporations, closed its operations for good. Previously, the business had vowed to phase out their iconic elephant acts by 2018, but high operating costs and decline of ticket sales made the circus an “unsustainable business.” This was considered a victory for animal rights advocates even though circuses are still prevalent in the United States.

 

In response to campaigns against the use of wild animals in circuses, seven states and 149 localities have passed various restrictions or bans. In 2019, New Jersey and Hawaii Continue reading

CoK Animal Law Job

David Cassuto

From the email:

2019-2020 Legal Advocacy Fellowship
Compassion Over Killing (COK) is seeking a Legal Advocacy Fellow for a one-year paid position beginning in late summer 2019 (starting date flexible; possibility of moving into staff position post-fellowship). Compassion Over Killing is a national nonprofit 501(c)(3) animal advocacy organization. Working to end animal abuse since 1995, COK focuses on ending and preventing cruelty to animals in agriculture.
COK is offering its Legal Advocacy Fellowship out of its office in Washington, DC (with Continue reading

A “pugmatic” solution? Family dog seized for unpaid bills in Germany

Helena Villela Sette Câmara

On December 2018, police officer Michaela Jordan bought a pug on eBay for 750 euros, or what is roughly about 850 US dollars. Although the buying and selling of animals on the platform is itself highly contested by animal rights activists, when Ms. Jordan sued the seller for fraudulent advertisement, the story behind the transaction prompted an even wider outrage and international repercussion.

As it turns out, Ms. Jordan bought Edda from the city of Ahlen, in northwestern Germany. The animal had been seized by the city for unpaid bills, including the town’s dog tax of about 90 US dollars per year. Deeming Edda, a purebred pug, as the family’s most valuable possession, the debt collector confiscated the dog and sold it online so the money would go towards the family’s outstanding debt, making what a city spokesperson considered a “pragmatic solution within the scope of his discretion.” Ahlen officials insist that the seizure was legal under German foreclosure laws, but since then, have had to reassure the 57,000 people members of the community that seizing family pets is not a common solution and that owners who pay their dogs taxes should not be apprehensive after the incident. Continue reading

Higher Learning? : Animal Dissections in Classrooms Across America

Keisha Sapphire Holgate

In many ways, dissection of animals in schools has evolved tremendously, yet in other ways it has remained exactly the same as it was 100 years ago. Each year, an estimated 10-12 million animals are used for dissection in classrooms across America. Currently, in 18 states and counting, students in Kindergarten through the 12th grade have laws and policies that legally give them a choice about whether or not to participate in classroom activities harming animals. In New York state, New York Consolidated Law Article 17 § 809(4) allows a student to object on moral or religious grounds to participate, or even witness, an animal dissection without penalization of a failing grade in school. The law requires this objection to be in writing by the student’s parent or legal guardian. The NY state law ensures that an alternative is provided for the abstaining student to allow the Continue reading

Who Gets the Kitty?

Erika Kissh

cats

For couples in the United States, the idea of growing one’s family can mean more than just having children, in many instances it can also mean the adoption of “fur-children.” According to the Insurance Information Institute in 2017/2018 there was a reported 85 million families that owned pets in the United States. While that number is heart-warming to think of, if one were to couple it with the fact that roughly 40% of marriages end in divorce, it begs the question “who gets the kitty?”

Pet custody has become a prevalent issue in recent years with the dissolution of marriages across the United States, however, Courts are divided on how best to answer the question of “who gets the kitty?” Some Courts have taken the approach that animals are property, and as such they should be treated like any other household item. While others have taken the approach of viewing the animal more like a child, or “fur-child”, and as such, they take the best interest of the pet/family into consideration when determining custody.

In the past, many Courts viewed pets as property, where the division of the pet was comparable to who would get the television, in more recent year some Courts, with the help of state legislation, have turned to view pets as more sentient creatures rather than objects. This makes sense when you consider that on average pets are often viewed as Continue reading

A Win For Free Speech Is Not A Win For Animals

Calli Norman

On January 9th, 2019 the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa held the State’s ag-gag law unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds. Iowa’s “Agricultural Production Facility Fraud”prohibits obtaining access to agricultural facilities under “false pretenses”. This includes making false statements or misrepresentations in employment agreements with agricultural facilities. The law was fueled by the agricultural industry’s concern for its security and reputation. According to The Associated Press, “no undercover investigations had taken place in Iowa since the law was approved”.

Animal activists, such as the Animal Legal Defense Fund, view this ruling as a “win for free speech and animal protection”. The State has since filed an appeal, seeking to protect the existing privacy and property rights. I think both parties miss the mark. How does this ruling actually further animal interests? To what extent is a judgment that protects lying a victory?

There are four Federal statutes that protect animal interests: the Animal Welfare Act, the Continue reading

Law 700: Animals used for Sacrifice in Bolivia and Religious Freedom

Alexandra Bueno

When walking down a mountain clearing in the streets of La Paz, Bolivia, one might find Kallawayas( medicine men) ,  curanderos (local healers or shamans), fortunetellers, and sorcerers crowding the cobblestone streets of an old quarter known for generations as the Witches’ Market. This witch market is known for selling traditional clothing’s, handbags, hats, jewelry, herbs, sacrificial animals and dried llamas for the use of witch craft and offerings to the Pachamama (Mother Earth).

By far the most sold product available at this market are the dried llama fetuses, which come in many shapes and sizes. Llama fetuses are buried in the foundations of new constructions or businesses as an offering to the goddess Pachamama. These sacrifices are thought to protect workers from accidents and bring good luck and flow of money to businesses. The fetuses are mostly used by the poor, wealthier Bolivians are expected to sacrifice a live llama to the Pachamama. Live sacrifices have long been a part of the indigenous Andean Culture, according to ancient traditions, sacrifices were Continue reading

Efficiency is the Cure for All Homelessness

Samantha A. Mumola

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, over 550,000 homeless humans are living in the United States on any given night.  Of these people,  as many as one in four are pet owners. Many homeless pet owners cannot enter homeless shelters due to restrictions against pets.  In other words, these compassionate individuals are denied basic services because they refuse to abandon their dog on the streets.

Human homelessness is at its highest point in modern history. Without a place to live, it is exponentially harder to find a job and maintain a healthy life, let alone take care of a pet.  However, these pets are a source of comfort, security, warmth, and normalcy to the homeless.

Before condemning all homeless humans from owning pets, consider the following: there are high rates of drug use and physical and mental health issues amongst those living without a home.  In fact, scientific research is becoming increasingly supportive of the link between pets and human health.  As a result, when patients seek treatment for drug use and mental Continue reading

Florida Man: Did A Rogue Zoo Veterinarian Commit Malpractice?

Robert Gordon

Since the 15th century, rogue has been used to reference shady or dishonest people. Today, however, folks like Dr. Ray Ball,  lead veterinarian at ZooTampa in Tampa, Florida, use the term endearingly. That is why, in his self-published book released seven months prior to an ongoing federal investigation into veterinarian malpractice at the zoo, he repeatedly describes himself as a “rogue veterinarian.” The book describes a number of stories from Dr. Ball’s twenty-six-year career, including some that at the very least raise questions about his judgment. For instance, there was one time where he and a co-worker stopped at a Hardees drive-thru with a sedated alligator strapped to the back of his truck.

But the real story is not Dr. Ball’s ill-advised retelling of tales from years prior. Today, Dr. Ball makes headlines because at least seven people have filed 45 complaints with federal authorities for alleged veterinarian malpractice resulting in the deaths of manatees and a giraffe. The allegations became public in late October when the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife sent a letter to ZooTampa inquiring about Dr. Ball’s treatment methods. Notably, the attention prompted an almost immediate response from Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL) and Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) who then penned a letter to the Secretary of the Department of Interior requesting a full investigation. There were four specific aspects to Dr. Ball’s treatment that raised red flags Continue reading

THE PACT ACT IS NECESSARY, YET FAILS TO PROTECT THE COUNTRY’S MOST TORTURED ANIMALS

 

Amy O’Brien

Millions of animals are subjected to needless torture, abuse, and suffering every year. Yet, there is currently no federal animal cruelty statute. All 50 states have criminal laws that protect against animal cruelty; however, these state laws do not protect animals that are being abused across state lines. Lawmakers have recently recognized the inadequacy of the current federal regime in protecting animals from harm. As such, in late January 2019, two Florida legislators (Rep. Vern Buchanan (R–Longboat Key) and Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Boca Raton)) re-introduced the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (“PACT”) Act to Congress.

The PACT Act, which was originally introduced in 2017, amends the Animal Crush Video Prohibition (“ACVP”) Act, passed in 2010. The ACVP made the creation, sale, and distribution of animal crushing videos illegal. The PACT Act defines “animal crushing” as “actual conduct in which one or more living non-human mammals, birds, reptiles, or amphibians is purposely crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled, or otherwise subjected to serious bodily injury . . .” Yet, the physical act of crushing the animals remains legal under federal law. The PACT Act, however, goes further by amending the Continue reading

How the 2018 Midterm Election Resulted in Animal Law Victories

Caitlin Ens

The U.S. 2018 midterm election did more than just change the majority party in the House of Representatives. Some local voters brought about significant changes in their state’s animal welfare laws. In California and Florida, two animal rights amendments were passed that, respectively, prohibit dog racing and establish minimum space requirements for calves raised for veal, breeding pigs, and egg-laying hens. These laws create standards for other states to follow in future elections.

Florida passed Amendment 13 and became the 41st state to ban commercial dog racing. Amendment 13 states that by the end of 2020, commercial dog racing will be completely outlawed. In states that still allow dog racing, thousands of greyhounds are bred annually to
Continue reading

A New Animal Rights Treaty Regime is Needed that Mirrors Human Rights Treaties: Animals aren’t Commodities, They Have Inherent Rights

Liz Holmes
A fundamental shift is needed in global law protecting animals. Existing systems protect animals mainly as commodities for human benefit and trade. There is a need to enshrine in international law the inherent rights of animals and have protection regimes that mirror those of human rights treaties.
Humans make up only 36 percent of all mammals, but our species provides only minimally for the other 64 percent – that is when humans are not driving animals into extinction. A few international treaty systems provide some restrictions on the treatment of migratory species and endangered species.

This includes the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of
Continue reading

Grants for Empirical Animal Work

David Cassuto

From the email:

Dear All,

This is to let you know that the UCLA Animal Law and Policy Small Grants Program is accepting applications from now until December 1. If you would like more information and to see the projects funded during the first cycle, please go to https://law.ucla.edu/centers/social-policy/animal-law-grants-program/about/. You will see a tab at the top for “Funded Projects.” There are other tabs with information for those interested in applying for a small grant.

Proposals about any type of empirical research projects that advance animal law and policy are welcome, but missing so far have been topics about animal research, pest control, and other arguably under-prioritized animals. Of greatest importance in the proposal review, however, is the strength of the proposed empirical research methodology for generating reliable answers to the research questions posed in the proposal. Accordingly, applicants’ description of their proposed methodology is particularly valuable to those of us reviewing the proposals.

I hope that you will consider applying for funds to conduct empirical research and that you will pass on the information about the UCLA Animal Law and Policy Small Grants Program to anyone who might be interested. Please note that we do not fund any type of research that involves living animals, and the research must be based at an American institution of higher education.

Sincerely,
Taimie Bryant

New Animal Law Journal

David Cassuto

This new animal law journal comes out of the Autonomous University of Barcelona, home to the totally excellent Masters Program in Animal Law & Society (full disclosure: Our hero is a Visiting Professor in the program). The journal is both great reading and a great place to submit your work.
42D9E2DC-8250-4221-B154-6CB7105E39C5

Harvard Animal Law & Policy Program Legislative Policy Fellowship

David Cassuto

An exciting opportunity.  Note the tight deadline:

Applications currently being accepted for the 2017-18 Legislative Policy Fellowship through November 15, 2017.

The deadline to submit applications is November 15, 2017. To apply for a Farmed Animal Law & Policy Fellowship for 2017–2018, please submit the following materials via the online application form:

  • a curriculum vitae
  • a recent publication or a writing sample (approximately 25 pages in length). All publications or writing samples should be in English.

You also will be asked to arrange for two letters of recommendation to be sent directly from your referees to the Program via our online application system by November 15, 2017.

Additional Information

Funding and Facilities

Fellows will receive a stipend of up to $5,000 per month. The Animal Law & Policy Program will pay the monthly Law School appointment fee for the duration of a Fellow’s stay at the Program, which will ensure, among other things, library access to all Harvard University libraries, access to University recreational facilities (for an additional fee), an email account at the Law School, membership in the Faculty Club, and free admission to University museums. Visiting Fellows will receive an office at the Animal Law & Policy Program or in the Harvard Law Library.

Terms of Appointment

Policy Fellowship terms are variable, from a minimum of three months to a maximum of one year. Academic Fellowship appointments typically last for two years.

Residence Requirements

With exceptions for a limited amount of personal and professional travel, Visiting Fellows are expected to be in residence at the Animal Law & Policy Program throughout the term of their appointment in order to foster an intellectual community, share ideas, and contribute to Program projects and events.

Housing

The Animal Law & Policy Program does not provide housing. No housing should be expected in University apartments or dormitory rooms, for which Harvard faculty and students have priority. Accepted fellows are encouraged to seek outside housing several months before arriving in Cambridge, preferably in person. There is information on housing on the Harvard International Office website.

Health Insurance

All visiting fellows must show proof of having adequate health insurance. Those who do not already possess such insurance can access information on obtaining Harvard Affiliate Health Insurance at the Harvard University Health Services website. A less expensive plan, available by the month, has been negotiated by Harvard’s International Office for international scholars.

Courses

Visiting Fellows may audit one course in any unit at Harvard University on a non-credit basis per semester, with permission of the instructor. There is no tuition charge for auditing courses. Visiting Fellows do not have faculty status. Appointment as a Visiting Fellow does not entitle the individual to participation in any Harvard degree program.

“Envisioning an Animal Anti-Cruelty Agency

David Cassuto

The Shameless Self-Promotion Desk is back in business:  Herewith an article about an article by me and a former student of mine calling for the creation of federal animal protection agencies in the United States and Brazil.  You can find the original piece here.

A New & Worthy Member of the Animal Blog Community

David Cassuto

From the email:

Friends of Animals of Animals, in partnership with Professor Martha C. Nussbaum, has launched a new project: Establishing the Legal, Scientific and Philosophical Basis for A Right to Ethical Consideration for Animals. The project blog can be found here: https://friendsofanimals.org/wildlife-law-program/wildlife-law-program-blog/

About the project: Currently, the law only seeks to minimize the physical suffering or death of an animal, or loss of an animal’s habitat, when sanctioning human activity. Increasingly, however, we understand both scientifically and philosophically that our impact on animals can be more than just physical. As Martha C. Nussbaum would explain it, our current legal system fails to respect one or more of the species-specific, central capabilities: life, bodily integrity, bodily health, play, sense/imagination/thought, emotion, practical reason, affiliation, and control over one’s environment.

The right to ethical consideration we seek is a legal obligation on our governmental decision-makers to fully examine how human actions degrade the types of lives animals are trying to lead. Such a right is not based solely on our compassion or empathy for an animal, but on moral and scientific principles that we can justify by argument. Our decision-making processes must embrace our ever-expanding knowledge of how human involvement or interference with an animal diminishes one or more of that animal’s central capabilities. In other words, the reason to focus on the ethical treatment of animals is because of them, not because of us.  What we feel is neither here nor there. What matters is the suffering of the animals, and whether we feel compassion or not we are morally obligated to relieve it.

Finally, the right to ethical consideration we seek is not the granting of specific substantive rights for animals, like the right to life, freedom, etc. It is, however, a pathway to strengthening legal protections for animals, and future substantive rights. By requiring decision-makers and the public to engage in active deliberation about the human impact on an animal’s ability to live a meaningful life, societal and legal beliefs regarding the rights of non-human animals can change for the better.

Cool Job Opening! Policy Director, Harvard Animal Law & Policy Program

David Cassuto

From the email:

Policy Director – Job Description

Harvard Animal Law & Policy Program

Overview

The Harvard Law School Animal Law & Policy Program is inviting applications for a Policy Director to develop and oversee a broad range of federal, state, and local policy projects to improve the treatment of animals by the legal system. The Animal Law & Policy Program engages with academics, students, practitioners, and decision makers to foster discourse, facilitate scholarship, develop strategic solutions, and build innovative Continue reading

Will Feds Permit Ringling to Send Endangered Cats to German Circus?

This piece originally appeared on Salon under the title “Ringling’s big cats need new homes — and they could be headed for a circus overseas”

http://www.salon.com/2017/06/11/ringlings-big-cats-need-new-homes-and-they-could-be-headed-for-a-circus-overseas/

Lacey cats

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has closed, but it still needs to find new homes for some of its animals. Ringling’s recent bid to export protected lions, tigers, and a leopard to a German circus reveals deep flaws in the way the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is being enforced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). All of these animals are imperiled in the wild and, as such, are supposed to be protected by the ESA. The ESA applies equally to captive and wild animals for good reason. When it was enacted, Congress recognized the connections between the exploitation of captive animals and species survival. Every day we learn more about how deep these links run, including how exhibits featuring endangered species in close contact with humans can undermine legitimate conservation efforts.

One of the primary ways the ESA aims to protect species is through strict prohibitions, including a ban on exports. As such, it is illegal for Ringling to just ship these cats off to Germany. There is a narrow exception to this prohibition, though: If an export would “enhance the propagation or survival of the affected species,” a permit can be issued. When Congress enacted this exception, it put in place myriad safeguards, underscoring that it intended to “limit substantially the number of exemptions.” The Supreme Court has likewise recognized that permits are only to be granted “in extremely narrow circumstances.”

 

 And yet, if experience is any indication, FWS will rubber-stamp Ringling’s permit to export these protected big cats. Indeed, the agency has repeatedly granted Ringling similar permits.

There’s no colorable argument to be made that exporting big cats so that they can be featured in a circus somehow “enhance[s] the[ir] propagation or survival” in the wild. While Ringling claims that such exhibits somehow raise awareness and benefit survival of the species, and even asserts that “lengthy and convincing evidence” supports this claim, no such evidence is anywhere to be found in its application, because it doesn’t exist.

To the contrary, FWS has determined that purported educational activities cannot form the basis of an ESA permit and that “no one has come forward with examples of how exhibition of living wildlife has any specific affirmative effect on survival of non-native species in the wild.” Indeed, as noted above, recent evidence indicates that such exhibits can in fact have a harmful impact on conservation. As tiger expert Dr. Ronald Tilson has written, “forcing tigers to perform in circuses has been detrimental to species conservation efforts because it gives the impression that tigers should be trained through brute strength and physical punishment. It also misleads the public into believing that tigers in the wild can’t really be so endangered if circuses are allowed to display them. . . . This exploitation . . . has actually lessened the general public’s appreciation for tigers in general and most specifically for wild tiger conservation.” Other experts have made similar observations.

Exporting these cats for circus performances not only fails to meet the threshold requirement for an ESA permit — that it help the species — it actually undermines the purposes of the ESA. Because of this, FWS shouldn’t be able to lawfully issue the permit.

Yet in recent years it has issued many permits to Ringling and others to export endangered animals for circuses under a scheme that critics have dubbed “pay-to-play.” FWS essentially allows anyone to make a donation to buy themselves out of complying with the law. This absurd policy makes the ESA’s exceptions — which, again, Congress intended only to be granted in the narrowest of circumstances — virtually meaningless, and lets the exception swallow the rule. In fact, last year the Congressional Research Service determined that “ESA permits are rarely given for their intended purpose of direct benefits to at-risk species, and instead virtually every one of the more than 1,300 ESA permits given out in the last five years involves this pay-to-play scheme.”

Ringling’s application is even worse than most, which at least propose to make a donation in exchange for the permit. Ringling brazenly tries to stretch the loophole FWS has created without authorization even further. It doesn’t even offer to make a new contribution. Instead, it seeks to justify the permit based on money that it already donated, much of it years ago — contributions that have no nexus whatsoever to the export.

Let’s hope that for once FWS won’t bend over backwards for Ringling and will instead put the interests of imperiled animals first and deny the application, as the law requires.

 

Delcianna Winders is a Harvard Animal Law & Policy Fellow and has worked on legal issues pertaining to captive wildlife for more than a decade. Follow her on Twitter at @DelciannaW

Animal Law Grants!

David Cassuto

From the email (with a huge hats off to Prof. Taimie Bryant at UCLA):

Thanks to generous funding from Mr. Bob Barker, UCLA Law School is pleased to offer the Animal Law and Policy Small Grants Program (“UCLA ALP Program”). http://law.ucla.edu/centers/social-policy/animal-law-grants-program The UCLA ALP Program exists to encourage new academic empirical research, with the goal of developing better empirical bases from which to understand, evaluate, and pursue animal law reform. Applicants from a variety of academic disciplinary backgrounds, including economics, sociology, demography, social psychology, moral psychology, medicine, plant-based nutritional science, cognitive science, law, public health, and public policy are encouraged to apply. Please note that the UCLA ALP Program does not support animal research. The UCLA ALP Program has two goals: Continue reading